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 Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid