Former Cardinals great Joe "Ducky" Medwick (left) visits with team owner Fred M. Saigh (center) and Branch Rickey, former Cardinals general manager, at Sportsman's Park in September 1949. By then, Rickey was general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Cardinals got within one game of the National League pennant that season, its best under Saigh. (Post-Dispatch)
As we celebrate July 4 under the Arch, we look back to the days leading up to the decision to build the monument. Many St. Louisans doubted the Arch would really benefit the city, including the president of the Cardinals, who wrote the paper in November 1949. Here is that original article.
Nov. 4, 1949 • New opposition to erection of the "useless" Saarinen arch on the Jefferson Memorial riverfront area came today from Fred M. Saigh Jr., president of the Cardinals Cardinals baseball organization, who urged in a letter to the Post-Dispatch that something "practical," with a "great deal of utility," be provided in development of the area.
Saigh, who has controlling interest in the Railway Exchange, Syndicate Trust and Century buildings downtown, declared it would be "nice" to have a stadium on the riverfront for use of the Cardinals and the Browns, but added that the stadium would mean more than that by providing providing a center of community interest and awakening a "dead" downtown area.
"Since Mayor Darst made a statement on the riverfront," his letter said, "I have been watching the reaction of your editorial page with a great deal of interest, and today, of course, I read Eero Saarinen's criticism of the proposal for a stadium for the riverfront."
"So far, I have not taken part in the discussion because I am biased in two particulars: first, I have a vast stake in the downtown area, and second, I am interested in seeing the Cardinals in a better stadium, whether on the riverfront or in one I shall build. So, anything I may have to say here may not be taken in the spirit in which it is intended.
"I want to make it clear that I have a great fondness for items beautiful, literature and music, but I do believe that a time comes when a matter of civic welfare dictates that we must set aside the aesthetic side for practical considerations.
"Mr. Darst is probably a little tired of seeing the unsightly mess at the riverfront and does honestly want to do something about it. I don't think any of us are being helpful by telling him or telling the government that they must stick to a formula which includes a futuristic arch that will be of no earthly use to our people.
"The argument that it will become become a trademark for St. Louis and a landmark for generations of the future is a rather empty one to me. St. Louis has gradually lost ground in maintaining its standing in population. It hasn't been so many years since we were the fourth city in the country, and the fifth and sixth, etc."
Sides With "Practical" Men.
"How could a stainless steel arch, costing anywhere from $8,000,000 to $12,000,000, recapture the glory that made St. Louis the outstanding city in the Middle West? Practical men say 'no,' the long-hairs say 'yes.' I side with those who keep practical and yet create something beautiful in so doing.
"There are many things that can be done on the riverfront which would be practical, have a great deal of utility, and yet have beauty. It may not be a stadium, but certainly it should not be a useless arch.
"Comparisons have been made with the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower. A close study of the history of those three projects will show the difference between their usefulness to their cities and usefulness an arch would be to St. Louis.
"The Cardinals brought something over 750,000 people to St. Louis in 1949. The Chamber of Commerce figures indicate that each person spent at least $15. On the basis of our figures last year, we brought more than $11,250,000 into St. Louis through visitors. That is quite an item, and it can be increased.
"I do not subscribe to the idea that is a one-league city. I am sure the time will come when the Browns will be just as popular as the Cardinals and they will bring people to St. Louis as do the Cardinals. It would be nice to have a stadium at the riverfront for the two great ball clubs, but it would mean much more than that, in that it would become a center of community interest and it would awaken a 'dead' downtown area.
"May I suggest that your paper hold a little contest and invite opinions of the public, particularly the business men. My contribution would be two World Series tickets for 1950 to the winner."
Mayor Starts Dispute.
The controversy began when Mayor Darst suggested recently that the city go ahead with development of some phases of the riverfront memorial rather than wait for Congress to appropriate money to build the arch.
William W. Crowdus, president of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association, charged in reply that the Mayor was attempting to "sabotage" the memorial project, and criticized him for "playing into the hands of the Terminal Railroad Association."
Crowdus said the only thing holding up the work was the failure failure to work out an agreement with the Terminal Railroad for removal of its elevated tracks from the riverfront area. He also charged that Mayor Darst was attempting to make a local project project out of the plan for establishment of a national memorial.
A simple design, but nothing simple about building it
The Gateway Arch is strikingly simple in design — a sweeping curve of stainless steel rising 630 feet above the ground. Its 142 welded pieces are equilateral triangles, one of nature’s most durable forms.
But there was nothing simple about building it.
The Arch is embedded deep into limestone bedrock and held in place by foundations made of 26,000 tons of concrete, more than 2,000 truckloads. The engineers had to be precise in measurements and calculations, from their drafting boards to fitting the last piece. Much was at stake — a “miss” of the two legs at the top would be a mortifying and expensive embarrassment, to say the least.
The triangles, known to the workers as “cans,” were double-walled structures of carbon steel inside and stainless steel exterior skin. For the first 312 feet, workers poured concrete between the walls and ran continuous reinforcement rods. Above that height, welds held everything together.
The engineers and iron workers knew their stuff. Each time a can was installed, engineers would measure the tips to a tiny fraction of a degree. Then the iron workers would grind, shim and weld the next can to keep the legs true. When the final piece was installed, the legs were only three-eighths of an inch off, making for an easy fit.