The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is a park located within St. Louis, Missouri today. It is situated at what is to be believed the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Executive Order 7523 designated it as a National Memorial back on December 21, 1935. The National park Service maintains it today.
The purpose of the park was to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase, and the subsequent westward movement and expansion of the United States of America. The park also commemorates the first civil government west of the Mississippi River, as well as the infamous Dred Scott court case. Today, the park consists of 91-acres along the Mississippi River on the site of the earliest buildings of St. Louis. Within the park, you will find the Old Courthouse, a former state and federal courthouse that saw the Dred Scott case, the Museum of Westward Expansion, and most famously, the Gateway Arch, which is the largest man-made arch in the western hemisphere.
The Gateway Arch
Also known as the Gateway to the West, this structure is one that brings in thousands of tourists every single year. Designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, the arch is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide at its base. The Arch was built to symbolize the entrance to the western portion of what would become the United States.
The Old Courthouse is built on the land originally deeded by St. Louis city founder: Auguste Chouteau. It stands at the location over which the arch reaches. The dome portion of the courthouse was built during the American Civil War, and is similar to the dome of the Untied States Capital in Washington D.C., also built during the Civil War. The site is where the Dred Scott case was tried. The west of the Old Courthouse is a greenway between Market and Chestnut Streets, which is only interrupted by Civil Courts Building that features a pyramid model of the Mausoleum of Mausolus.
Museum at the Gateway Arch
Right beneath the famous arch, there is a visitor center for all to entre before enjoying the park. Entered from the descending outdoor ramp starting at either base, this museum is actually temporarily closed for renovations. The newly planned museum will feature exhibits on a variety of topics, including westward expansion and construction of the arch, the quintessential symbol of St. Louis. This new museum will also feature a movie-viewing section.
The memorial was developed largely through the efforts of St. Louis civic booster Luther Ely Smith, who first pitched the idea in 1933. He was the long-term chairman of the committee that selected the area and pitched it to Franklin Roosevelt himself in 1935. He argued for its passage after St. Louis passed a bond issue to begin building it. At the same time, the United States was looking for a suitable memorial for Thomas Jefferson, and the Jefferson National Expansion Monument just made sense – especially since it was Jefferson himself who hired Lewis and Clark for their famous expedition.
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