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The Gateway Arch: Architectural Wonder & ‘Example Of Failed Urban Planning’

Originally published July 1, 2013 — Author and historian Tracy Campbell views the Gateway Arch as an architectural wonder which draws millions of tourists to St. Louis, though he also argues the landmark is “an example of failed urban planning.”

To make way for the monument, nearly forty square blocks of riverfront property were demolished.  The demolition began during a public ceremony on October 9, 1939.

City leaders only gained traction for the project once it was framed as a monument to President Thomas Jefferson.

While architect Eero Saarinen envisioned the Gateway Arch in 1947, it wasn’t completed until the mid-1960s.

Host Don Marsh talked with Tracy Campbell about his new book, “The Gateway Arch: A Biography.”  Campbell is a professor of history and co-director of the Wendell Ford Public Policy Research Center at the University of Kentucky.

“No structure quite like it had ever been built before,” Campbell said.  “It’s like going to the moon, and I found myself thinking, this was kind of a space-age project. Let’s get started and let’s let the engineers and someone else figure it out as we go.”

During the conversation, they addressed such questions as:

  • What was there before?
  • Who benefited from its construction?
  • Who lost?
  • What could have been?

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Mary Edwards came to St. Louis Public Radio in 1974, just after finishing her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has served the station in a number of capacities over the years. From 1988-2014 she also taught an undergraduate class in radio production at Webster University. Mary was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation Media Hall of Fame in April, 2017 and received the Gateway Media Literacy Partners' Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award in 2012. Mary retired from St. Louis Public Radio in 2018, but still serves the station as a St. Louis Symphony Producer.
Don Marsh served as host of St. Louis Public Radio’s “St. Louis on the Air" from 2005 to 2019, bringing discussions of significant topics to listeners' ears at noon Monday through Friday. Don has been an active journalist for 58 years in print, radio and television. He has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards for writing, reporting, and producing. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2013, and named “Media Person of the Year” by the St. Louis Press Club in 2015. He has published three books: his most recent, “Coming of Age, Liver Spots and All: A Humorous Look at the Wonders of Getting Old,” “Flash Frames: Journey of a Journeyman Journalist” and “How to be Rude (Politely).” He holds an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

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