A very interesting and informative video documenting the Jefferson Expansion Memorial in St. Louis Missouri.
The Arch is an icon most people know of but know little about. I was grateful to have visited a few years ago for the first time, and I have told everyone who will listen how visceral the experience was for me. Standing under the arch, touching it, riding to the top - just fantastic beyond what I had imagined. There was a short film in the visitor area showing some of the construction, but nothing in depth.
This film provides much in the way of back story. The first half is about the westward expansion of America, and the role St. Louis played in the great adventure of the pioneer settlers of the West. St. Louis was at the center of trade and travel, one of the most important urban areas in the country. It's hard to imagine this today, with all the crime the city is known for, but this was once a shining jewel of the American heartland. Along with Chicago, nearly all the country's travelers passed through these two cities on their way west. The train station downtown is a stunning testament to this. Years later, visionary civic leaders wanted a way to commemorate the importance of their gateway city. Although it took decades, they finally got their monument.
And what a monument it was ! Designed by the great Earo Saarinen, the arch was a tremendous feat of man made brilliance. The second half of the film is concerned with the design, engineering and construction of the arch itself. There are interviews with people directly and indirectly related to the project : architects, writers, engineers, ironworkers, Saarinen's daughter, etc. My favorite are the ironworkers, the guys who actually built the thing. These were the real heroes. No nonsense men who had to risk their lives every day hundreds of feet in the air. The vintage footage of the construction is priceless. Very satisfying.
This film is made by people who live in and love St. Louis, and their pride shows. It's a nice alternative to the typical History Channel stuff, and a great contribution to the oral and visual record of the city. Get this if you live in St. Louis, if you're interested in St. Louis, if you like good documentaries, if you love architecture and construction or if you want to learn more about the iconic structures that grace our great American landscape.