September 22, 2013 – “Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie …”

After leaving our campground this morning we took a short detour to Collinsville, IL see what is billed as the world’s largest Ketchup bottle.

Our next stop was at the Gateway Geyser Fountain (which it turns out is only turned on three times a day) to view the famous Gateway Arch across the Mississippi River.

The 630 foot structure is clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a flattened catenary arch.  It is the tallest man-made monument in the United States, Missouri’s tallest accessible building and the world’s tallest arch.  The Gateway Arch was designed by the renowned architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel in 1947. 

Construction began on February 12, 1963 and ended on October 28, 1965 when the final [keystone] was put in place.

Scale model representation

Reproduced from actual video shot as it was hoisted into place

Opening to the public on June 10, 1967, it cost of $13 million (roughly $100,000,000 in 2013 dollars).

Then we drove across the Mississippi River to St. Louis to see the Arch, the Jefferson National Expansion Museum and Park and surrounding buildings.

Walking around one of the two lakes in the park provided a rather unique view of the St. Louis skyline.

In the Jefferson National Expansion Museum which encompasses the Arch as well as the surrounding park, two lakes, Old Courthouse and Old Cathedral there are a number of exhibits, mostly focused around the history of St. Louis and Lewis and Clark’s Expedition.  What fascinated me, however, were a number of rare photographs.

The earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln (1846)

Harriet Beecher Stowe whose novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” helped fan the flames of the abolitionist movement … and who also smuggled arms to John Brown during his violent crusade to abolish slavery in Kansas by hiding them under shipments of Bibles (circa mid-1850s)

James W. Marshall who discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill in California on January 24, 1848, setting off one of the world’s largest scramble for the precious metal. Curiously, his discovery also indirectly led to my birth … as one of the families heading west to California on a wagon train to seek their fortune was attacked by Indians. Both the parents of a small girl, Anna, were massacred, but Anna eventually made it to San Francisco where she was put on a boat which returned her to her family’s home in Boston … where she was raised, married and had children. Anna was my great grand-mother.

The first president to take and airplane flight … Teddy Roosevelt in 1910

Steamboat at a St. Louis levee on the Mississippi River (circa 1900)

Steamboat Corwin S. Spencer (1890s)

The steamboat glory days (circa 1860)

A contemporary, colorized-print of Dred Scott

The construction of the Eads Bridge spanning the Mississippi River and connecting St. Louis, MO with East St, Louis, IL. Named for its designer, when completed in 1874, the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world with an overall length of 6,442 feet. The ribbed steel arch spans were considered daring, as was the use of steel as a primary structural material … being the first such use of true steel in a major bridge project.

Photo of the bridge taken today

It was also the first bridge to be built using cantilever support methods exclusively and one of the first to make use of pneumatic caissons (still among the deepest ever sunk.  To prove the bridge’s strength to an unconvinced public, John Robinson led a “test elephant” on a stroll across the bridge on June 14, 1874.  The Eads Bridge was St. Louis’ iconic image from the time of its erection until 1965 when the Gateway Arch was constructed.

This is the earliest surviving photograph taken in the United States. Taken in 1836 by Joseph Saxton using a daguerreotype process, it shows the U.S. Arsenal and the cupola of the Philadelphia High School

Two blocks west of the Gateway Arch it the Old Courthouse.

It was in this building that one of the most important cases ever tried in the United States began when

An illiterate Dred Scott and his wife, and Harriet, filed suit in Missouri, a slave state, at this courthouse in 1848.  Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and was decided in 1857 when Chief Justice Taney read the Court’s opinion that the Scotts and all African Americans (including those who were already free and lived in States where slavery had been abolished) were not citizens and could not claim citizenship in the United States … and were, in fact, property.   This 7-2 decision in effect dismantled the Missouri Compromise and other federal and State laws and agreement relative to those of African descent living in the US.

Opposition to this disgraceful decision was one of the triggering causes of the Civil War and ultimately led to the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Ultimately, Dred Scott’s owner, Irene Emerson, who had since married a Senator who was an ardent abolitionist, sold him back to Dred’s former owner, Henry Taylor Blow, from whom she’d purchased him for $1.00.  Dred and Harriet were then officially granted their full freedom just three months after the Supreme Court ruling in one of the courtrooms in the same building in which they first filed their suit.

The Courthouse was also the site of a suit by Virginia Minor in 1872 when she unsuccessfully sued for a woman’s right to vote.

In addition to the historical events which took place in the Old Courthouse, is its architecture. 

The original courthouse was constructed of brick in the Federal style of architecture and completed in 1828.  The second courthouse was designed with four wings and a dome in the center of its axis. The cornerstone was laid in 1839 and within it were placed newspapers of various cities, an assortment of coins, and names of officers of government. Three tiers of balconies or galleries viewed the rotunda floor. Pillars of stone supported the first gallery, while white oak columns supported the upper two galleries.

Due to the extensive remodeling, the original dome, a classic revival style, was replaced. The new dome was of wrought and cast iron with a copper exterior in an Italian Renaissance style. In 1861, the Federal government was constructing a similarly styled dome for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  Both domes were modeled after the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  

Controversy was sparked when naysayers assumed the dome in St. Louis would be too heavy to be supported.  The architect of the dome, William Rumbold, constructed a test model dome and proved it was sound.  Once the dome was complete, Carl Wimar was commissioned to paint murals, in eye-shaped openings called “lunettes,” on the interior of the dome.  The subjects of the lunettes were four significant benchmarks in St. Louis history.

Behind the Old Courthouse, there was yet another park providing yet another spectacular view of the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch.

Adjacent to the Arch and just two blocks from the Old Courthouse, we visited the Basilica of Saint Louis King of France, formerly the Old Cathedral, the first cathedral west of the Mississippi River and, until 1845, the only parish church in St. Louis.  for the city of St. Louis.  Built in Greek Revival style, the church is noted for its marble altars, a painting of Saint Louis venerating the Crown of Thorns given by Louis XVIII of France and an accurate copy of the painting of the Crucifixion by Diego Veláquez. 

As the steeple is undergoing renovations and shrouded in scaffolding, the above picture was lifted from the Internet

Our next stop was White Haven, the home Ulysses S. Grant’s wife, Julia, grew up in and which he eventually purchased from her father Col. Frederick Dent (there is no evidence Dent ever served in the military and is assumed he simply appropriated the title to enhance his status). 

Unfortunately, during Grant’s two terms as President, all of the Grant’s original furniture was put in storage in another house on the property … which burned to the ground

The central, two-story section of the home was originally constructed in 1812 and subsequently purchased by Col. Dent in 1820.  The 850 acre property was a working farm throughout most of the 19th century, including the period after Grant resigned from the army in 1854 and returned to White Haven to become a farmer, working side-by-side with Col. Dent’s slaves.   However, lacking the necessary resources, he abandoned farming by 1859.  With the outbreak of the Civil War, he once again joined the U.S. Army, eventually rising the rank of General, taking command of all Union army and finally accepting the surrender of Confederate forces from General Robert E. Lee in 1865.

The adjoining museum is filled with information on Grant’s and Julia’s lives, surprisingly including the ascertains of his opponents about his perceived failings … as a drunk, overreaching officer who though little of his troops, turning a blind eye to corruption in his Administration, etc; … together with substantial rebuttals to each such claim.

Grant initially visited the Dent home to pay his respects to the parents his friend and fellow West Pointer John Dent.  When he met John’s sister, Julia, he was smitten and quickly began to court her … in the parlor of the Dent home.

The parlor in which they formerly courted … although Julia’s sister later recounted that Ulysses and Julia often took off on long, unchaperoned horseback rides

The relationship between Julia’s father, an ardent segregationist, and her future husband, Ulysses who was a Unionist and the abolition of slavery.  Somehow, love conquered all and after rejecting Ulysses’ proposals on several occasions she realized, during one of his military absences she really loved him and agreed to marry.

Notably, Julia abandoned her father’s views on Negros and included them in many functions during her tenure as First Lady.

I found Grant’s Vision of Justice” very telling and speaks to our country’s present state of affairs and apathy where according to recent polls, only 42% of Americans can name the three branches of the federal government and only 28% can name two of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.  Even worse, 35% believe that “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” was embodied in the Constitution (rather, it came from Karl Marx!).  In short, voters are politically dumb.  Yet, their decisions directly affect 300+ million Americans and influence the rest of the world in an ancillary way.  Education is only valuable if students are truly educated, taught to think for themselves and held to high standards of excellence and performance.

  Our last planned stop was at the Lewis and Clark Historic Site where their expedition started its long trek to the Pacific Ocean and back.  However, as with so many places we’ve visited, there is simply too much to see and nowhere enough time , we arrived after the Visitor’s Center had closed.  We did, however, get one picture of the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower.

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