The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis is much more than the Gateway Arch. Significant historical events occurred in this one location and spurred change for the city of St. Louis, the state of Missouri, and the country as a whole.
Louis and Clark's monumental journey of exploration to the west began in St. Louis, Underground Railroad caves ran along the Mississippi River and hid slaves bound for Illinois, and the Dred Scott v. Sandford case was decided in this city. All of these historical events can be seen in greater detail in the museum of the Historical Old Courthouse, which has now been turned into a museum and a visitor center for the National Park Service.
The Old Courthouse was used as a meeting place for people planning on going west and assembling groups of wagons to take the long trip. Slaves were sold on the steps of this building, and meetings concerning issues of slavery were conducted in the rotunda of the courthouse. The Supreme Court tried one of the most important cases in the American court system when Dred Scott and his wife Harriet, a slave family, sued for their freedom. The decision, which stated that people of African descent whether free or enslaved, were not American citizens and therefore could not sue in a court of law. This decision pushed the nation into the Civil War.
The Gateway Arch is located just a couple of blocks directly east of the Old Courthouse. It is a memorial site that allows one to contemplate the migration of Americans to the West. It is a structure made out of stainless steel on the outside, carbon steel on the inside, and concrete in the middle. For $13 one can ride a tram car, which stays upright while moving, to the top of the arch (630 feet). Once at the top, you can see for miles from the observation deck. To the west you have an amazing view of downtown, and the Mississippi River flows to the east. The ride up takes four minutes, and you can spend 10 minutes on the deck before descending for 3.5 minutes. If you decide to not go to the top, for $3 you can see the Museum of Westward Expansion located right beneath the arch. The exhibits show artifacts used by farmers, hunters, miners, and cowboys. There are stagecoaches, covered wagons, life-size tipis, and animal displays.
Outside the arch, running and biking trails, spaces for outdoor concerts, and a brand new museum built by the CityArchRiver project for the westward expansion commemoration offers more outdoor enjoyment for all.