Along with new name & landscape design, a more skeptical view of expansion at Gateway Arch NP
ST. LOUIS — On July 3, one of this country’s most recognizable landmarks will be reintroduced to the world with a new name, a new museum and a substantial redesign of its urban landscape. A half-century after Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch was inaugurated in 1968, it has been reconnected to the city of St. Louis, with a sleek underground entrance facing the city, an expanded and redesigned visitor center and museum, a cleaner landscape and an elevated and more elegant waterfront along the Mississippi River. An old parking garage has been removed and a parklike pedestrian platform over Interstate 44 allows visitors from downtown St. Louis to visit the city’s most popular attraction without having to brave traffic lanes.
But it is the new name that encapsulates the larger cultural changes to the National Park Service site, which has been give a $380 million renovation and redesign. What was once known as the Jefferson National Expansion Park has been recast as the Gateway Arch National Park. That change simply reflects how people think about the park, says Eric Moraczewski, executive director of Gateway Arch Park Foundation, a nonprofit group that partnered with the National Park Service to raise funds and oversee the renovation. There is no intention to downgrade Jefferson’s importance or the park’s original purpose, which was to memorialize “the men who made possible the western territorial expansion of the United States,” including “the great explorers, Lewis and Clark, and the hardy hunters, trappers, frontiersmen and pioneers,” according to a 1933 statement by a local civic group that championed the idea of building something monumental on the Mississippi waterfront.