Arch ‘n Bunker

“Please don’t let it rain,” I beseeched the angry sky.

After savoring four months of dry weather from Oregon to Arkansas, we arrived in St. Louis at the same moment a cold gray funk had arrived for Halloween. Leah and I had put off our visit to the Gateway Arch in our hope that conditions would clear, but our window of opportunity had narrowed with a rainy forecast predicted for the following day. Running out of options, we bit the bullet and pulled the trigger.

Tickets to the monument are available at the Old Courthouse–headquarters for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial,

Old Courthouse

and historic location of the landmark Dred Scott trials–where an ordinary man took extraordinary measures to free his family from the indignities of slavery, by bringing suit against the United States of America.

Dred Scott

A walk inside reflects two hundred years of history. Directly beneath the dome and the 33-star flag (dating back to July 4, 1859)…

Old Courthouse rotunda

…rests a 3-foot diameter flagstone amid the pavers–the acoustic sweet spot of the courthouse–where orators would stand to speak and be heard from top to bottom,

2nd flr view

and throughout the wings.

flag and columns

Stairwells lit by skylight…


stairs thru the door

carried us to higher floors, providing a peek of the nearby Arch,

stairs and arch

Arch thru courthouse skylight

and a recreation of the courtroom that memorializes where Louis D. Brandeis was admitted to the Missouri bar on November 21, 1878.

Brandeis courtroom

After a brief detour around a barricaded green space currently under construction, we arrived at the south bunker beneath the arch…

Arch against the sky

Arch curvature

scratches and weld

that houses walls of exhibits documenting construction from 1963 to 1965,

ediface sculpture

and more importantly, access to the carriage cars that carry visitors to a viewing gallery 630 feet above the city.

pod control

After a four minute ride, we emerged from our pod,

cable pod2

into an enclosed ramp with multiple portholes overlooking east of the Mississippi,

Mississippi Riverboats

and unobstructed views westward, beyond St. Louis.

St. Louis panorama

As we drove through St. Louis drizzle the following day, we were never far from occasional glimpses of the Arch shrouded in rain clouds.

While I never had a sunny day to capture the full beauty of the simple architecture created by Eero Saarinen, I could still bask in the warm glow of an iconic structure that celebrates the spirit of American exploration.

Gateway Arch