News / USA

Towering Arch Marks Gateway to the West

St. Louis' strategic location made it a jumping-off point for US westward expansion

The Gateway Arch is  the towering focal point of the St. Louis, Missouri skyline.
The Gateway Arch is the towering focal point of the St. Louis, Missouri skyline.

Multimedia

Arash Arabasadi

The American City of St. Louis, Missouri — often called the Gateway to the West — is perhaps best known for a towering, architectural marvel. The city sits near the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and played a major role in early America's Westward expansion.  

Since the 18th century, St. Louis, Missouri has offered travelers a hub to begin their adventures into the western frontier. Its nickname — the "Gateway to the West" — is symbolized by the towering focal point of the St. Louis skyline: the Gateway Arch. It was all about location.

"St. Louis is pretty centrally located in the middle of North America. The arch, itself, is on the Mississippi River, and just about 18 miles (29km) north of here is the Missouri River, which runs all the way out to the Rocky Mountains," say historian Bob Moore. "So being on these river systems enabled St. Louis to be right in the middle of everything that was going on. People used the rivers as much as possible to get from place to place."

The city was already a natural stopping point for explorers coming from the Wild West and the bounty they were sending to the settled east, like beaver fur that was used for hats.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark started their expedition here, when America's third President Thomas Jefferson — one of the founding fathers — sent them to explore land bought from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

But why did St. Louis develop on this particular piece of land?

"When the first settlers came there was a cliff face that was right next to the river. And, the only break in that bluff, was just about where the south leg of the arch is today. So, the leg of the arch you see behind me, that's where the break in the bluff was the easiest way to get from the river up to the top of the cliff. Because it's the first place along the river, closest to where the two rivers come together, where a community could be placed and could thrive and not have to worry about being flooded out."

Flooding may not have been an issue, but a great fire that started on the riverfront reduced much of old St. Louis to ash in 1849. While the American railroad system eventually lessened the importance of St. Louis as a trading capital, river transport still plays a role in regional commerce. And while Moore says the city never really bounced back from that economic downturn, it did still attract some modern industries, such as auto and airplane manufacturing. St. Louis is also home to an American favorite.

"Anheuser Busch is here, a manufacturer of beer going back to the 1800s," says Moore. "Budweiser since 1876, it all started here."

In addition to being the home of the world's largest-selling beer company, Moore says St. Louis offers many other amenities — especially free activities that can be helpful in tough times.

"Our zoo, our history museum, our art museum. Most of our cultural institutions are free of charge. It's wonderful for families because they can just take their kids and it isn't a huge, financial burden."  

With many public places perfect for families, couples, kids and adults, Moore says there is still one place that visitors absolutely must experience.

"They have to come see the arch," he says.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid