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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More