The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo., is one of the most recognizable landmarks in America. The museum and visitor center attached to the monument built to celebrate U.S. westward expansion remained less well-known — until now.
The Museum of Westward Expansion and the Gateway Arch Visitors Center are part of a $380-million makeover that reopened Tuesday. A new grassy park in what’s now known as Gateway Arch National Park connects the monument to the city and adds 46,000 square feet of space in a building below the arch, which opened to the public in 1967.
The renovated museum reinforces the story of the West. For example, a terrazzo floor follows the trails that pioneers took on their westward journeys from St. Louis and other points on the East Coast.
Six new galleries highlight the history of the West: one about the Colonial period in St. Louis, one about Thomas Jefferson’s vision of what a west-facing expansion would be like and one about the building of the Gateway Arch.
The Washington Post reports that the story has changed too. “In a gallery devoted to Manifest Destiny, wall panels ask not only ‘How the West Was Won,’ but was the west ‘stolen,’ ” the story said.
The renovations also bring more than five miles of walking and cycling paths as well as an outdoor amphitheater for events and performances.
The arch that stands 630 feet high is made of stainless steel. It was designed by Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen and completed in 1967.
As part of the renovations, visitors who wait for the tram to take them up the 630-foot-high arch can watch a 100-foot-wide media wall that will show videos of the monument’s creation.
From a vantage point in the plaza, visitors also can see the Old Courthouse (where Dred and Harriet Scott pleaded their case to be freed from slavery) and downtown St. Louis.
Tourists still can take a tram ride to the top ($10 to $13) but should purchase tickets in advance, particularly during the busy summer months.