. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Me in St. Louis

''Meet me in St. Louis, Louis,
Meet me at the Fair
Don't tell me the lights are shining
Anyplace but there
We will dance the 'Hoochie-Koochie'
I will be your 'Tootsie-Wootsie'
If you will meet me in St. Louis, Louis,
Meet me at the Fair.''

- First chorus of the 1904 popular song ''Meet Me in St. Louis,'' celebrating the St. Louis World's Fair of the same year.

Ok. So I don't know what the "hoochie-koochie" was, but I definitely don't want to dance it and become someone's "tootsie-wootsie" but I did want to visit St. Louis, especially the Gateway Arch. We planned an evening flight back home so that we'd have time to get downtown, go up in the Arch, and make it to the airport in time for our flight.

Now for some reason, I thought the Arch was built in time for the World's Fair, which I discovered to be in 1904 and was officially called the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Who knew, right? Well thanks to Google, yet again, I found out all kinds of information, the most important is that it wasn't built until 1965. It had originally been planned after the design won an open art competition in 1947 but because of financial backing issues was not built right away. The winners of the design of the Arch were architect Eero Saaurinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel.

View from the north end

I found out that the Arch was all part of an idea to renew an economic downturn by bringing people to the downtown riverfront area of St. Louis. Those old 1947 designs were still in play and somehow the funding was found (with the National Park Service involved this time), and it became part of a whole concept of the "Jefferson National Expansion Memorial" that also holds the Museum of Westward Expansion and the old Jefferson County Court House on the park grounds. According to the National Park Service website linked here:
"The Arch reflects St. Louis' role in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the 19th century. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson's role in opening the west, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the old courthouse."
Which leads me to another question....Who was Dred Scott? (Wikipedia to the rescue!) Two trials of his case, in 1847 and 1850 were held in the old courthouse in which Scott sued in court for the right to be a free man in the state of Missouri. It went to the Supreme Court because nobody could figure out if Scott even had the right to sue, having no rights as a white man does. In the Supreme Court ruling in his case, they determined that people of African descent brought into the U.S. and held as slaves (or their descendants) were not protected by the Constitution and were not U.S. citizens. Scott was considered a free man in other states but when he moved to Missouri he wasn't. His case retains historical significance as one of the worst decisions ever made by the Supreme Court. In fact, some argue that it was this case that began a pathway toward the Civil War. In any case, it was credited with launching Abraham Lincoln's political career and ultimate election.
Looking straight up
The Arch is 630 feet high and 630 feet wide from leg to leg. It is the tallest memorial in the United States and the tallest stainless steel monument in the world. The base of each leg is an equilateral triangle with each side 54 feet long at the bottom and narrowing to 17 feet at the top. (The legs are wider at the bottom).The Arch is hollow to accommodate a tram that takes riders up to an observation deck at the top. It consists of a train of 8 egg-shaped cars that seat 5 people and takes about 4 minutes to get up (3 minutes to get down). They open up to the top observation deck where we were able to look down on St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Absolutely amazing! 
View from the top down to the Old Courthouse
According to poet Calvin Trillin from Kansas City, Missouri, when being compared to poet T.S. Eliot, a St. Louis native:
"Some have questioned whether St. Louis really was the Gateway to the West....I'm from Kansas City where people think of St. Louis not as the Gateway to the West but as the Exit from the East."

That's another way of looking at it I guess. In any case, I can check the Gateway Arch off of my Bucket List now!
Me with the arch in the background

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