Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, located in St. Louis, Missouri, is one of the city’s most popular attractions.  The park is the created near the starting point of the historical expedition of Lewis and Clark on their journey westward.  Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park was conceptualized to celebrate many different famous milestones that took place in the area, including the Louisiana Purchase, the first civil government west of the Mississippi River, and the Dred Scott case that was a monumental debate in terms of slavery.

History of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, St. Louis, Missouri

The idea for the park came in the 1930s when the nation began to search for the perfect location to create a monument that would honor Thomas Jefferson.  Luther Ely Smith suggested that the area in St. Louis would be a perfect fit considering Jefferson was the president to make the Louisiana Purchase.  In 1935, Smith was able to persuade President Franklin Roosevelt to create the memorial, and on December 21st of that year, it was made a National Memorial by Executive Order 7523.

It took some time, however, for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park to be fully constructed.  By 1942, the land had been cleared for the park.  Work continued slowly but was then put on hold due to the Korean War.  In 1959, work on the park began again with covering railroad tracks that ran through the land.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park was officially completed on October 28, 1965.  Though upgrades and changes have been made since then, the cost of the project in 1965 was roughly $15 million.

Attractions – Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park is home to many famous attractio

ns and sight-seeing opportunities.  The memorial itself it 91-acres long and runs down the Mississippi River.  Most notably, the park is home to the Gateway Arch.  Constructed between 1963 and 1965, the Gateway Arch is the tallest structure in Missouri.  It was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel and is also known as the “Gateway to the West.”  The structure is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide.  Visitors can even hop on the unique tram system to be brought to the observation room of the arch.

Below the Gateway Arch is a museum that visitors can enter to take in a rich history of the location.  Among the exhibits featured in the Museum at the Gateway Arch are topics such as westward expansion and arch construction.  For the time being, however, as renovations are being done, the Museum at the Gateway Arch has been temporarily moved to the Old Courthouse.

The Old Courthouse also sits on the land of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park.  Known for hosting the famous Dred Scott case, the Old Courthouse also features a St. Louis History Gallery.  Featured in the gallery are many artifacts from the Museum of Westward Expansion, as well as three brand new exhibits: Early St. Louis (1764-1804), Exploring the West (1804-1840) and Clash of Cultures (1840-1890).

Visit the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park

During the winter, the park is open from 9 AM to 6 PM daily. The park is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Entrance fee into the Gateway Arch is $3.

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