Gateway Arch sped up decline of downtown St. Louis, book claims

8:36 AM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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Gateway Arch

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - The Gateway Arch is more than just the symbol of St Louis. It is a soaring monument to westward expansion and its staggering size is proof of the American can-do spirit.

But a new book argues the Arch ruined downtown St Louis and stands as a trophy for bad city planning.

The book is titled "The Gateway Arch: A Biography" by Tracy Campbell. A professor of history at the University of Kentucky, Campbell traces the origins of the Arch back to the 1930's when it was promised as a job creator and a stimulus for a rebirth of downtown St. Louis.

Campbell's book describes the monument as a bad idea from the get-go.

Combined with the new freeways of the 1950's and demolition of historic buildings on the riverfront, Campbell's book describes the iconic landmark in almost tragic terms.

"The gaping wound of the highways, and the decaying structures just blocks from the Arch, underscored how, like so many other American cities, St. Louis bet on tourism and expressways to save its downtown.

It lost," Campbell writes.

The book also points out that the original bond issue to approve money for the arch was a fraud, with more than 40 thousand phony ballots.

"Thousands and thousands of false voters had been registered in empty parking lots or rundown tenements that didn't exist," Campbell said.

Controversy came with the Arch even during construction. Local civil rights activist Percy Green climbed up scaffolding while the Arch was still under construction in 1964.

Green was angry that more minorities were not hired to build the monument.

Green tells NewsChannel 5 he received a copy of "The Gateway Arch: A Biography" and plans to read it soon.

The book does offer some hope for the future of the arch.

Campbell covers the recent voter-approved efforts to cover the depressed section of I-70 downtown so pedestrians can more easily access the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.


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