Amity Shedd/KMOX

BRENNAN: A Visit To The Improved Gateway Arch

No doubt the place will be jammed during Thanksgiving week, but I think you might have the place to yourself in December.

Charlie Brennan
November 14, 2018 - 1:23 pm

My cousin Bob and his wife Kathy are visiting from Cleveland, Ohio next week, and you’ll be sure to find us at The Gateway Arch, where I lamentably visited last month for the first time since its recent $380 million renovations.

The Gateway Arch Visitors Center hosted 30 of my KMOX listeners for a tour, trip to the top and lunch on the river.  We had a fun and informative afternoon.  I learned: 

  1. The new museum under the Arch has settled on February 14 as the founding date for the city. Surprisingly, that has been a tricky issue.

Historian Charles Van Ravenswaay, director of the Missouri Historical Society from 1946 to 1962, wrote that fur trader Pierre Laclede “sent young (Auguste) Chouteau with thirty men to clear the site. They arrived late in the afternoon of February 14 . . .”

However, historian Frederick Fausz more recently concluded the only eyewitness to document the founding was Chouteau, and his original manuscript notes the founding on February 15, with an “oddly shaped numeral ‘5.’”

So, it may have gone unnoticed, but the city’s birthday has been revised.

  1. The city’s first family, Pierre Laclede and Madame Chouteau, lived in a home 95 feet long and 50 feet wide. In size, their house was larger than Thomas Jefferson’s home in Monticello or George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon.
  2. The museum expansion covers an area of some 46,000 square-feet, with new exhibits created by Haley Sharpe Design, which also developed the London Museum of Water and Steam, the Kurdistan Museum, the Canadian War Museum, and others around the world.
  3. Does your home feel too small? Visit the 15’ by 15’ vertical log cabin, a replica of a typical 1764 St. Louis home. This structure was based on homes in St. Louis and St. Genevieve, and was constructed in the National Park Service Historic Preservation Training Center in Frederick, Maryland.
  4. While clearing land for renovations, workers found archaeological remains like British porcelain, mustard pots, chamber pots, and other items from the 1700s which are on display.
  5. The windows at the top of the Arch seem a little clearer and less opaque. Did they wash them? Replace them? Anyway, the view is quite good and worth the rather funky tram experience.

No doubt the place will be jammed during Thanksgiving week, but I think you might have the place to yourself in December. Leave at least three hours to tour the exhibits. It’s another great way to show off St. Louis.