Is the Arch endangered?
(KPLR) – In Wednesday’s Jacology, Charles Jaco looks at gateway to the west, an iconic site for downtown St. Louis, what one group calls, the endangered Arch.
When I was fourteen, I was chased off the construction grounds of the Gateway Arch; where I’d found a space in the fence and sneaked onto the work site, amazed at the two stainless steel arms reaching up out of the earth toward the flat gray sky. They had bolted railroad tracks to the flat outer side of the arch. Each set of tracks supported a crane, slowly creeping skyward, and each crane carried a giant hollow pie-shaped wedge to be lowered and fitted and welded in place. And piece by piece…it rose above what used to be warehouses and brothels and waterfront saloons and was now just flattened ground. It was some sight.
An international group called the world monuments fund now lists the arch among the world’s most endangered monuments, right up there with all the cultural sites in Syria and crumbling ancient temples in Burma. There are a lot of reasons. The stainless steel skin is corroding. Shrinking federal funds have reduced the amount of money available for maintenance and repair. The people who built the Arch always assumed that following generations would want to take care of one of the world’s great monuments. Silly them.
But the city-arch-river project mixing public and private money may help. The ground will be ripped up and changed. The depressed section of interstate 70 will become a tunnel with parkland on top. The project, due for completion in two years, promises to change the Arch grounds completely. But that still leaves what appears to be corrosion on the monument itself. Experts blandly assure us that the stains are overly cosmetic. Well, so is a huge pimple, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get rid of it.
A new book on the Arch revealed it’s corrupt past. The 1936 election to approve tearing down thousands of buildings was rigged. The book hypothesizes that St. Louis might have been better off keeping the block after block of New Orleans-style riverfront buildings, instead of demolishing them to build the Arch. Maybe. But the Arch remains one of the world’s premier public monuments and works of art. It’s what this town is known for. Let’s hope we can keep it in shape.
I’m Charles Jacoand that’s Jacology.