Tuesday, August 24, 2010
As civic leaders reveled in last week's unveiling of grand plans to remake the Gateway Arch grounds, there was an ominous element not discussed. Almost 45 years into its reign atop the St. Louis skyline, the 630-foot monument is suffering from growing rust and decay. And nobody knows how extensive.
Corrosion, some of it feared aggressive, and severe discoloration of the stainless steel skin have long been present, according to engineering reports reviewed by the Post-Dispatch.
The documents and interviews with metallurgists indicate that the remedy could be as minor as an "expensive" surface cleaning or as elaborate as a full-blown restoration. One report, completed in 2006, called for a deeper study, for which the National Park Service says it only recently obtained funding.
"This is not yet a health and safety issue," said Frank Mares, the deputy superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which oversees the Gateway Arch. "(The report) says learn more about what's going on. It's something that requires further study."
Okay, so the infamous Arch isn't likely to fall from the sky anytime soon but, for some reason, it just feels unsettling to hear about something iconic and purely Americana as the St. Louis Arch showing its age.
It's construction in the 1960s really marked a pinnacle in American post-War II building prowess. I remember visiting as a young child and being scared to death of the ride up into the arch (I thought you ended up having to travel upside down to get back to the ground. Not the case.)
At the same time, I was in awe (and still am) of its simplicity and beauty and symbolism.
Even if we can't retrofit all the dying malls and re-pave the asphalt failing roads, surely we can fix the Arch......
--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.