Architect Eero Saarinen’s proposal for the Gateway Arch was selected in a 1948 competition to design a commemorative memorial for the St. Louis, Missouri, riverfront. This pamphlet described his ideas for the site. Known for its historic role as the “gateway to the West,” St. Louis served as the starting point for settlers and explorers, including the famed Lewis and Clark expedition. The memorial would celebrate the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the role President Thomas Jefferson played in the acquisition.
Numerous delays, cost overruns, and political wrangling meant that many of the features shown in this pamphlet, such as museums, wooded areas, and a promenade called the “Historic Arcade,” that Saarinen envisioned and eloquently described in his “imaginary tour” of the National Park Service’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial remained just that. The proposed memorial site was acquired and cleared, but additional funding was needed. As the country entered World War II, progress halted completely. The project remained stalled through the Korean War.
In 1953, the Subcommittee on the Library of the Committee on House Administration considered H.R. 6549, to provide the long-postponed funding for the construction of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Representative Leonor Sullivan of Missouri introduced the bill. Saarinen’s pamphlet, which was likely submitted with his original 1948 proposal, was included in the committee’s records as reference material for the legislation. In May 1954, Congress authorized $5 million for the memorial grounds, but not the planned Arch.
Finally, in 1961, Congress appropriated an additional $9.5 million. Construction started in 1963, two years after Saarinen died. The Arch was completed in 1965.