Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Administrative History
NPS Logo
Administrative History
Sharon A. Brown


The end of World War II meant renewal — a time to stop, assess, reorganize, and accomplish new goals. For the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association, the postwar years meant holding a national architectural contest. This contest would produce a plan, a visual conception of the ultimate Jefferson memorial. The contest bridged the gap between conjecture and fact, fantasy and reality, images in the mind and images on paper. Original 1934 plans called for $22,000,000 improvements on the land, which would make it the largest memorial concept ever. Association members wanted the best talent available to transform their as yet unstated visions into tangible forms such as a drawing, a model, or an engineer's rendering. Loose ends had to be tied off to prepare for the effort. Several priorities existed: finances, increased public support, stronger public image, removing the tracks, and producing an inviting, challenging competition program worthy of the country's best talent.

Association members started with themselves, reorganizing their hierarchy when they adopted a new plan of organization in the fall of 1946. William C. D'Arcy became president and chairman of the organization's executive committee. The association created a new body, the Board of Trustees, with Luther Ely Smith as chairman. [1] Members hoped the new organizational plan would respond to some of the past charges of ineffectiveness and failure in keeping the project preeminently before the populace.

Next, the association tackled the deductibility problem. Smith sought deductibility based upon the fact that a specific contribution would be for the purpose of expediting and aiding the development of the memorial by providing funds to hold an architectural contest. He also wanted the contributions to be deduced as ordinary and necessary business expenses. Whether or not a contribution was deductible on that basis bore a direct relationship to the particular taxpayer's business and the propriety of the contribution. Smith wanted a specific ruling: could corporations make contributions to the association for the use of the United States in raising money for holding a competition? In March 1945 Luther Ely Smith's patience and persistence paid off. The Internal Revenue commissioner decided that the association was considered to be acting as a collecting agency for the United States. Accordingly, corporate contributions made to the association were considered for the use of the United States, thereby making them deductible. [2]

More good news came to the city's business community when National Park Service Director Newton Drury decided that a portion of the memorial grounds could be used for parking. [3] The action met with Smith's approval, as he had always received pressure from association members to secure parking in the area. The temporary lot helped relieve the acute shortage of parking space in the downtown area, and it remained there until the late 1950s. The question of how much, or if any, parking space should be provided on the site popped up again and again throughout the memorial's history. National Park Service officials stated they were not in the parking lot business, and would not provide space for the city's needs, but agreed to provide temporary space until construction of the ultimate memorial began.

Along with desire on the part of many downtown merchants to provide parking on the site, other interests holding other ideas continued to look at the empty riverfront acres. Mayor Aloys Kaufmann, keeping an interest in the association's growing fund drive for the architectural competition, realized that both civic-minded citizens and others wanting "personal gain" were proposing plans to use the grounds for things other than a memorial. Kaufmann felt it imperative that the association continue to promote the memorial to insure that the land would be used for that purpose. [4]

Preliminary plans existed for development alongside the memorial on Third Street. Neither Harland Bartholomew of the City Plan Commission nor Milton Kinsey of the Board of Public Service had evolved any final plans, but they sought to control the development and the architectural character of the proposed highway. Final plans for the highway needed approval by the State Highway Department, the Bureau of Public Roads, the city of St. Louis, and the National Park Service. Charles Peterson and other Park Service architects and engineers conducted studies and made recommendations in order to exercise control over the development while St. Louis tried to meet its transportation needs. [5] This was not a small problem: many more zoning and highway studies evolved after the architectural competition provided specific memorial development plans.

Railroad negotiations proved to be as frustrating in the postwar years as they had been during the war. Terminal Railroad Association President Philip Watson's 1944 plans to place the tracks in a tunnel along Third Street from Washington Avenue to Poplar Street remained under study in 1946. City and association representatives comprising a coordinating committee kept their communication open with the railroad officials. An engineering firm was hired by the city and railroad to make surveys and collect data on the feasibility of Watson's plan. Its report, due during the summer of 1945, was delayed until early 1946. Philip Watson's death in 1946 caused even more delay. Since Third Street was to include both the interregional highway and the railroad tracks, surveys and studies made for one had a direct bearing on the other's feasibility. By December 1946 surveys were finished for the highway between Twelfth Street and Gravois, and contracts were awarded for completion of structural designs. Milton Kinsey's drawings showed generally the location of the highway and tracks. Philip Watson's original plan called for the tracks to be in an open cut, but Julian Spotts stated that his main objections to the plan would disappear if the tracks were covered over in a tunnel formation. [6]

Despite the effort, railroad officials apparently still hoped to keep the status quo and in 1947 went to Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug to ask if former Secretary Harold Ickes' policy concerning the tracks was still in effect. Secretary Krug stated that the department's position remained the same. Perhaps a genius could think of a plan to keep the tracks in their place, but he himself could not think of such a solution. Any plan providing for freight cars passing in front of the memorial would not be up to the standards of the National Park Service, and entirely out of the question. The secretary indicated that if the city of St. Louis wanted a "utilitarian" memorial, including landing fields, underground parking, and railroads, he would propose abandoning the project as a national memorial and turning it over to the city. [7] With that, railroad officials agreed several months later that their companies would probably approve removing the tracks if they could substitute new tracks on the grounds at an elevation above flood stage. Negotiations then stalled until the architectural contest was held, as railroad officials waited to see how the competition dealt with the problem. No amount of pressure from Mayor Kaufmann could make the officials proceed until after the design of a specific memorial scheme. [8]

National Park Service officials, nevertheless, called on the Terminal Railroad Association to aid in preparing a northern entrance into the memorial area from under the Eads Bridge approach. In September 1946 the Park Service had no immediate plans to construct such an entrance, but they wanted to prepare for any future developments. Julian Spotts called upon the railroad officials to give the Park Service an easement. The TRRA agreed, upon the conditions that the easements would not impair the use of Eads Bridge or its railroad operation, and that the Federal Government would reimburse it for any construction expenses incurred by the TRRA in preparation for such an easement. The Department of the Interior went along with the conditions, executed a waiver of damages, and the Park Service got vacation of the streets and alleys under the Eads Bridge approach. [9]

Fund Raising

In ways such as these, the association and the Park Service tied off loose ends and attempted to solve old problems while still putting most of their efforts into raising funds to hold the national architectural contest. Luther Ely Smith, more than seventy years old and often ill during these years, once again had to keep the varied interest groups happy. While he and the association geared up for the campaign, the pressure was on, most strongly for a permanent parking lot. In December 1944 when businessman Ingram F. Boyd contributed $5,000 to the fund, he offered the suggestion that if a statement were made that there would be parking space for several hundred automobiles on the memorial site, retail business people would be influenced to contribute. [10] Yet Luther Ely Smith knew the National Park Service's negative feelings on the subject. Later Smith had to drop all mention of the parking lot to keep the Government's crucial interest.

Smith was scheduled to meet with National Park Service Director Newton Drury near the end of October 1944, and when he went, he wanted to have at least $200,000 in hand. He believed he could not face Drury unless he had the fund completed. [11] Smith did not complete the fund in time, but this proved to be only the beginning of his troubles. Throughout 1945 he appealed to businesses and individuals alike to raise the necessary $225,000. Sixty retailers, anxious to maintain downtown property values, pledged $50,000 while urging that the final plans include facilities for parking 5,000 automobiles. Despite Smith's and the association's efforts, the response was not enough. By June 1945, after the first burst of pledges, the drive bogged down with only one-third of the needed $225,000 contributed thus far. [12] Mayor Aloys Kaufmann realized the danger involved if the money was not obtained quickly. The end of the war loomed near, bringing with it reconversion, dislocation, and unemployment. It was of utmost importance that postwar plans be developed to where bids and contracts could be obtained as soon as possible after the war ended. More importantly, the longer action was deferred on the original project, the greater the danger was that the ground would be diverted to some other use. Kaufmann suggested setting up an organization to collect the competition money, because he realized that if the association's program did not gain more popular acceptance, many leading citizens would start believing it was an unrealizable dream and push for adopting another plan. [13]

Concern came not only from Kaufmann but also from other interested backers who knew Smith was carrying most of the burden. Association members were criticized for letting everything drop. Association members criticized others for suggesting new uses for property, but they made no suggestions themselves. It was no wonder that other proposals cropped up. Despite Kaufmann's belief that the entire fund could be raised within six months, another year passed and still the fund raisers had not reached their goal. In May 1946 the fund stood short by $40,000. In desperation Luther Ely Smith underwrote the balance. Additional subscribers had to be signed up by June 1, although their pledges did not have to be paid until 1947. Smith searched for support by obtaining additional underwriters. Ingram Boyd, Jr. believed he could find ten individuals willing to sign up and solve the problem, but he accused the association of doing a poor job of public relations and said that consequently, people who wanted to support the project did not have enough confidence to contribute. He believed Luther Smith was grasping at straws to accomplish something his own group could not do. [14] It was at this point that the reorganization took place, resulting in Smith being made chairman of the board and relieved of much of the personal responsibility for the association's activities. It was hoped that association members would experience a renewal of spirit from the change. [15]

Despite the reorganization, Luther Ely Smith continued to search for ten people to help defray the cost of his $40,000 underwriting. The fact that these people had underwritten the deficit was not to be known to anyone except Smith. Letters were written, the money solicited, and questions of city politics raised. One businessman, asked to contribute, stated he thought real estate owners in the district should rally to the cause and accused them of causing the chaotic condition of downtown values. [16] At the end of June 1946 Smith overcame the petty charges, internal politics, and city apathy, and found underwriters for most of the remaining funds. The good news was marred, however, by Smith's own personal underwriting, which still stood at $17,000. [17]

Now the effort began to complete the subscriptions to pay off the underwriters. Twenty-seven thousand dollars were still needed in December 1946. Ingram Boyd, Jr. succeeded in obtaining contributions from downtown businesses which hoped to receive advantages from the project's completion. By February 1947 the association's treasurer announced the competition fund total: $231,199.26, including a cashier's check for $35,000 from anonymous underwriters represented by Luther Ely Smith. In addition there were new pledges totaling $7,650. Association members voted to refund $6,000 to Smith, and to keep making refunds to him in denominations of $1,000 or more until his entire contribution was repaid. [18]

Finally it appeared that the money had been raised, and association members began gathering ideas and plans for the competition. As early as 1943 architect Louis La Beaume had drawn initial drafts for an architectural competition. When Luther Ely Smith met with National Park Service Director Newton Drury in November 1944 he expressed his personal view that there should be one central feature: a single shaft, a building, an arch, or something else that would symbolize American culture and civilization. Smith wanted something "transcending in spiritual and aesthetic values" which would attract people from other nations. He and his association formally announced the national architectural competition in January 1945. [19]

Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes believed that the association's success in raising funds to hold the competition revealed the organization's deep interest and support, but, nevertheless, he would not commit the Department of the Interior to accepting the jury's award. Neither would he approve of the association's desire to provide underground parking in the area for the use of the city's downtown district. At this point association members decided it was in their political interest to drop the parking idea. William D'Arcy knew they should watch every word and paragraph when promoting the memorial, in order to stay in Washington's good graces. D'Arcy also realized the importance of keeping favorable publicity about the memorial in the forefront. He met with other association members about policy, how to attract and keep support and how to state in concrete terms what the plans were for the empty land. With the fund drive completed, D'Arcy believed that the association had finished the last task they possibly could before turning the project over to the Federal Government for building. [20]

Louis La Beaume agreed. Local support could raise funds, formulate a program, and hold a contest, but this would serve no purpose without the Federal Government's endorsement. The association wanted assurances that the National Park Service would approve the competition and abide by the jury's decision. Without such assurance no progress could be made. Therefore La Beaume proposed omitting all reference to parking facilities from the program. [21]

Superintendent Julian Spotts knew of the association's desire to have the Federal Government approve the competition. He also knew of their desire that the competition winner be hired by the National Park Service as a consultant in carrying out the winning design's details, and believed that the association would resist any attempt on the Government's part to divorce itself from participating in the competition or being obligated by the results. National Park Service officials needed to determine the extent of their participation. [22] Spotts, Director Drury, and Charles Peterson reviewed the materials Luther Ely Smith submitted. Drury did not foresee any great difficulty in agreeing on a working basis for the competition, his conditions being that the design should carry out the theme of westward expansion with emphasis on the site's historical significance, and that a division be made for four million cubic feet of museum space. Aside from these limitations, Drury believed the designer should have absolute liberty to design whatever best expressed the memorial's theme. [23]

Luther Ely Smith understood the implications, and assured Director Drury that the association knew that no money could be spent until all the government agencies involved endorsed and ratified the program. Meanwhile, the National Park Service itself moved to draw up specifications for the competition after which any area where its ideas conflicted with the association's could be solved in conference. Drury notified Smith that the Department of the Interior could not commit itself to accepting either the design or the architect without specific congressional authority. The association could not assure that the Federal Government would employ the winner as architect; it could only submit its recommendation to the Department of the Interior. Whether the winner was employed at all as either architect or consultant depended upon congressional authorization of the work and appropriation of funds. Despite all the legal restrictions, Newton Drury believed that Smith's desire for aesthetic and inspirational values in the design could be achieved. [24]

An important aspect of the competition remained, that of hiring a professional advisor. National Park Service officials agreed with Smith that an advisor from outside St. Louis would give the competition national scope. Another factor on future plans was the treatment of Third Street, involving both the highway and the railroad tracks. The competitors needed to know the main access points to the memorial in order to plan vehicular and pedestrian traffic. National Park Service officials placed emphasis on relating the design of the memorial to the policies of the Historic Sites Act, meaning that the Old Courthouse and Manuel Lisa's warehouse were to be preserved in situ and that a major museum would be developed. By July Park Service officials placed these requirements in perspective and worked up an outline draft of the competition. [25]

Competition Advisor

At the end of August 1946 Luther Ely Smith asked Philadelphian George Howe, fellow of the American Institute of Architects, to serve as professional advisor for the competition. He agreed to do so on several conditions, which corresponded to his architectural philosophy. Howe held a radical attitude toward modern architecture. He admired ancient architecture but was convinced it did not meet the needs of modern life either materially or spiritually. Having suffered through battles with conservative colleagues in the past, he believed he would be either useless or troublesome in the complex situation surrounding the memorial, involving the satisfaction of Congress, Federal agencies, local government, and public and private interests. Howe warned Smith in advance so that if he were employed, the authorities would know what they were getting into. [26] Howe held specific views on the competition program. He thought the proposed museum and reproductions of old structures would be expensive dust collectors. The modern architectural point of view was activist, rather then stylist; the area should be dedicated to inspirational, educational, and recreational facilities. Howe wanted the grounds to be used for pageants, concerts, and open-air dances. A monument might be included as a reminder of the past, but Howe thought Jefferson and the western pioneers would have placed emphasis on living life rather than remembering it. [27]

George Howe was confirmed as the competition advisor, and spent the next few months working up the competition's specifics. He followed many of the association's original plans, stating that the competition should be in two stages, the first to eliminate all but a few competitors, the second to select one architect and one design. Both stages were to be anonymous. The competition was open to all architects, landscape architects, sculptors, and painters who were citizens of the United States. Howe anticipated more than 500 submissions to the first stage, from which the jury would select five architects to participate in the second stage. [28]

In the midst of this active involvement and work association president William C. D'Arcy resigned for health reasons. Association members searched among themselves for a replacement for a month and a half before news of the resignation appeared in the papers. They needed someone who could secure the confidence of the other officers, sponsors, and general public to avoid letting the project die. There were no takers. Finally Luther Ely Smith stepped down as chairman of the board to assume the reigns and responsibility of the presidency. Edward D. Dail was appointed temporary executive director in September, but Smith retained the presidency for a year, guiding the association through the entire competition proceedings. [29]

Internal organizational uproar did not prevent Smith from exerting his influence over events. He and George Howe met with National Park Service representatives in March to discuss the competition. [30] Both groups wanted an approach to the competition that would assure the best design, but the Park Service especially wanted to be unhampered by preconceived provisions such as the underground parking. Director Newton Drury felt compelled to approach Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug with the problems concerning inclusion of underground parking. Krug took a hard line. The provisions for underground parking and a helicopter landing pad were incompatible with the nature of a national memorial. If the city of St. Louis considered parking an imperative need, the Department of the Interior would consider supporting legislation transferring the area back to the city. If such a transfer occurred, the National Park Service would keep the Old Courthouse with a limited area between the building and the river, and administer it as a national historic site. [31]

Luther Ely Smith backpedaled from Krug's strong statement. He explained that the competition's first stage intended to encourage competitors to propose a wide variety of treatments and suggestions, leaving the second stage to solve the specific problems. None of the first stage proposals were to be made public until the second stage winner was chosen. Smith requested that Secretary Krug wait until after the first stage results had been assembled to confer with association members about the situation. [32] When questioned further by association members regarding his objections, Krug remarked that the Park Service was getting worried over the influence of St. Louis' commercial interests. They worried particularly about the Terminal Railroad Association. As far as parking was concerned, Krug said he would keep an open attitude until he thoroughly discussed the subject with association members. [33]

Architectural Competition

The competition, scheduled to open May 30, 1947, received an important endorsement just a few days before, when the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission unanimously approved the plans on May 28. As soon as the contest opened, the St. Louis Star-Times rejoiced somewhat prophetically in its promise for the city. The memorial was not simply to be a huge shaft of stone, a statue of Thomas Jefferson, or a monumental structure that people would visit only once or twice and then revisit only when showing a stranger the city's sights, the paper said. Instead, the area must be made an integral part of the community's life, and revive the adjacent downtown area in terms of beauty and vigor. [34] Again, the basic difference in viewpoint between the local business community and the Federal Government on the main purpose and function of the memorial revealed itself, as one group concentrated on commercial benefits and the other on historical significance for the nation as a whole.

The competition program addressed this problem:

The purpose of the U.S. Commission to formulate plans looking to the creation of a Memorial, of the City to assist in creating the Memorial and to make certain that the throngs who will visit it from all parts of the world are provided with sufficient parking facilities and conveniences in a location where existing provisions are already inadequate, and of the Park Service to preserve an Historic Site within the meaning of the Act, are separate and distinct in legal theory, while the present purpose of the Association to create a Living Memorial to the vision of Thomas Jefferson in the form of Continuing Activities is a private concern and without legal sanction of any kind. Yet in reality all four have a common purpose, namely to develop an historic metropolitan area to the greatest advantage of the citizenry of the world at large, and each recognizes a moral obligation to consider the interests of the other three. The apparent conflict, then, is a conflict only in the best democratic sense. It is a conflict over means, not over ends. [35]

The association believed it was fulfilling its obligation to assist the Government agencies by holding the competition. The second stage would be designed to arrive at a solution acceptable to all; yet the first prize winner could not be given positive assurance that he would be employed by the Federal Government to design the memorial, or even that the memorial would be built. [36]

The requirements of the program significantly reflected the diverse purposes of the memorial project. They fell into seven categories: building an architectural memorial, preserving the site of Old St. Louis with a museum provision, creating a living memorial to Thomas Jefferson, exploiting the recreational possibilities of the site, providing access for parking on the site, relocating the railroad tracks, and providing for the interstate highway which officials knew would be coming through St. Louis. "Preserving the site" included landscaping, providing for an open air campfire theater, and reproducing typical Old St. Louis buildings. [37]

The competition jury was composed of seven prominent architects selected by the association. The jury's deliberations, scheduled to take four days in the first stage of competition and two days in the second, centered on the response of the entries to the site, and the intent. George Howe, as advisor, participated in the deliberations but had no vote. The competitors' identities were kept secret until after the final awards in the second stage. The judging was by secret ballot and by majority vote. The five first stage winners received $10,000 each. First prize for the second stage winner was $40,000; second prize $20,000; third prize $10,000; and runners-up $2,500. [38]

After the first stage mailings, competitors had three months within which to submit their entries. More than 200 architects had signified their intention of submitting designs and by the deadline of September 1, 1947, Howe received 172 entries. [39] On September 23 the seven jury members, S. Herbert Hare, Fiske Kimball, Louis La Beaume, Charles Nagel, Jr., Richard J. Neutra, Roland Wank, and William W. Wurster, met in St. Louis with George Howe. They met with the press and then retired to the upper rooms of the Old Courthouse to view the submissions. The jury spent the afternoon eliminating the more obviously inadequate submissions, which numbered more than 60. On the second day of deliberation they considered the remaining 110 designs, and eliminated another 51. During the third day the members analyzed the designs, exchanged opinions, and took several ballots, finally getting down to approximately 15 designs. On the fourth and final day of deliberation the jury voted on a series of five ballots, selecting the final five finalists. [40]

All five designs were known to the jurors only as numbers, and comments were written on them, which ranged from "impractical" to "inspired" on the design destined to win, number 144, that of an immense arch. S. Herbert Hare held doubts of the arch's practicality while praising the considerable thought that went into the plan. Roland Wank considered it to be "relevant, beautiful, perhaps inspired would be the right word." Charles Nagel, Jr., thought the arch monumental, imaginative, exciting, "an abstract form peculiarly happy in its symbolism." [41]

After four days of deliberation the jury had selected five projects representing a variety of concepts and ideas. The differences in treatment resulted from the entrants' handling of the requirements: building grouping, traffic questions, and memorial character. Since the objective of the first stage was to select five designers rather than five designs, selection depended upon breadth of conception rather than on particular details. Announcements of the numbers of the five finalists were made to the press on September 27. [42]

George Howe began drafting the second stage addenda to the program. He described fine details needing consideration for the final development: the levee was city property and had to be left in its present state, the railroad tracks were to be handled as if they had already been removed and relocated (competitors were to assume that when the tracks were moved they would be below present grades and not affecting surface layout), the interstate highway would be assumed to be constructed along Third Street; and any underground structures, such as parking facilities, should not affect the site's surface development. Generally, the site was to be treated as a tree-shaded park, terraced down to the river and leaving a view from the Old Courthouse to the levee. The architectural memorial itself was to be conceived as an element visible from a distance; it had to be a notable structure. Its purpose, according to Howe, was to attract the interest of both the multitudes and the connoisseur of art. Howe extended the time for submitting the designs by ten days, to February 10, 1948. [43]

Superintendent Julian Spotts took note of the second stage specifications. The biggest factor, that of the track removal, remained unsolved. The Terminal Railroad Association members had not committed themselves to any solution, insisting instead that they could better solve the controversy after the Park Service had determined their development plans. Spotts believed the plan to place the tracks in a tunnel diagonally across the memorial area to be the most practical and feasible idea, but he assumed the TRRA would oppose all efforts to remove the tracks until they secured a solution more advantageous to themselves. Concerning the parking lot controversy, the association intended to make a separate issue of it after the competition's completion. After examining the second stage addenda, Director Newton Drury and Assistant Secretary of the Interior Oscar Chapman approved its requirements. [44]

Association members made elaborate plans for revealing the grand prize winner. During the five months which passed between the first and second stages, they planned a prize award dinner for February 18, 1948, inviting the governors of all the states in the Louisiana Purchase, plus Federal, state and local officials, and representatives of civic and other private organizations. George Howe would let the five competitors know the results before the dinner so that they would not suffer nervous indigestion, but the official announcement would be the culminating moment of the banquet. [45] Meanwhile, George Howe kept in contact with all five competitors, making arrangements for the shipment of their final designs. Association funds paid for all their expenses in shipping their entries. [46]

Amidst the activity, rumors and complaints spread about George Howe's relationship with certain contestants. The chairman of the Washington University School of Architecture received complaints of "frank and undisguised intimacy" between Howe and several people involved in the contest. There apparently existed a breakdown of anonymity and rumored identification of some or all of the first stage winners. Other complaints centered on "unexplained knowledge or presumptive knowledge of certain solutions." None of the rumors could be traced to authoritative sources, and the National Park Service tried not to fuel them. For example, when Charles Peterson sought permission to observe the second stage deliberations, Superintendent Julian Spotts worried about the local criticism charging association members and employees with favoritism toward local competitors, and Peterson did not get his request. [47] Spotts personally believed no grounds existed for the charge, but he wanted to avoid involvement and public attack if a local competitor should win.

The deadline for the second stage arrived and the jury met on February 17 to take care of old business first. Publicity, disposal of the rejected entries, preparation of reports, and the question of anonymity in the competition were discussed. Jury member William Wurster read passages from the competition program on specific points to refresh fellow jury members' memories. George Howe stressed the importance of a memorial of striking design and character. After reconsidering the drawings, the jury decided to hold an anonymous trial ballot for first place, just to show the general trend of opinion. Design number 144 won unanimously. No further balloting was needed. After more discussion the jury awarded second, third, and runner-up prizes. The winners: Saarinen, Saarinen and Associates of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Jury members met the next day to prepare their reports and a summation of the judgment. [48]

The formal black tie dinner at the Statler Hotel proved to be a resounding success both in function and publicity. Local radio carried part of the ceremony live, various political dignitaries spoke, and National Park Service Associate Director Arthur Demaray attended. Luther Ely Smith barely made it from his sick bed to attend; unfortunately, former Mayor Bernard F. Dickmann was in Washington. Jury member William Wurster explained how the decision was made and then announced the winners and presented the checks. Through the efforts of the St. Louis Advertising Club publicity covering the event reached 127 radio stations across the country and newspapers and magazines carried the story. [49]

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial competition proved to be Eero Saarinen's first opportunity to produce a major work independent of his father, architect Eliel Saarinen. Their office in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was one of the most widely known in the country, and during the war years Eero carried most of the responsibility for his and his father's combined effort. Each entered a contribution to the St. Louis competition. Ironically, in September 1947 when George Howe informed Saarinen of his selection in the first stage competition, he mistakenly sent the congratulatory telegram to Eliel. There were three days of celebration at the firm's headquarters in Eliel's honor before Howe rectified the error. [50]

Eero Saarinen's major idea was to search for a simple, basic form as the centerpiece of his design. He wanted to create a monument that would have lasting significance and would be a landmark. He considered several basic shapes, including an open vaulted structure, and a three-legged dome; but after visiting the St. Louis site he decided that neither obelisks nor domes seemed right. Eventually the initial concept of a three-legged dome evolved into a two-legged arch. Saarinen wanted the arch to be the purest expression of the forces within it; a mathematically precise catenary curve in which the thrust forces are kept within the center of the Arch legs. It was an upward-thrusting form, not an earthbound one. To be constructed of materials emphasizing permanency, specifically stainless steel with a concrete core, Saarinen believed his creation to be the right monument for that place, purpose, and time. "The arch could be a triumphal arch for our age as the triumphal arches of classical antiquity were for theirs." [51]

Saarinen's winning design contained many other features in addition to the central memorial Arch. He met the competition program's basic concepts by placing the Arch on an axis with the Old Courthouse, and by drawing the river into the total composition. The Arch would bring people to the river's edge to find museums, restaurants, and historic riverboats. On the levee side of the Arch Saarinen designed a stairway that would be monumental in terms of size and the symbolism of the westward pioneers moving through a "gateway." Sculpture and paintings situated along an arcade below the Arch would tell the story of America's westward expansion. A campfire theater and a village of pioneer houses would stand on the site for historical/interpretive purposes. Saarinen provided for two museums, one historical, one architectural. [52] Years later, many of these additional aspects were dropped because of monetary problems. Saarinen himself redesigned the project in 1957, but his main concepts, that of the Arch, the tree-lined mall, and the staircases, have continued to provide the main core of development.

Saarinen's design more than just pleased Luther Ely Smith, who attempted to congratulate Saarinen after the dinner. Smith had nothing but words of praise. "We are still breathless at the vision you have opened up for us by your marvelously fine design. The more we gaze upon it the more wonderful and gripping it grows." [53] Saarinen returned the good feelings when he congratulated Smith on the masterful management and planning of the competition. Speaking from experience, Saarinen knew that many competitions create interest in the architectural profession but fail to become reality because they fail to close the gap between the profession and the world at large. Saarinen believed Smith, Howe, and the association had done a magnificent job, and that Smith's initial vision for the memorial was more beautiful than anything that could be put down on paper. Saarinen considered his own lot to be one of crystallizing Smith's dream, realizing that [54] "When the project someday becomes a reality, we will remember this and, by refinement of detail, we will try to gain some of what has been lost by stepping down from a great dream to reality." [55]

As soon as various versions of Saarinen's rendering of the "great dream" appeared in the national press, the nation had a field day rendering its judgment on the design. Comments ranged widely once again, from a New York Times judgment of "a modern monument fitting, beautiful and impressive" to a local citizen calling it a stupendous hairpin and a stainless steel hitching post. [56] One criticism, coming from Gilmore D. Clarke, chairman of the National Commission on Fine Arts, attracted national attention. In a letter to William Wurster he charged that Saarinen's idea of an arch was not new because it resembled an arch approved by Benito Mussolini for a Fascist exhibition in Rome in 1942. In Clarke's mind the important question was not whether or not the design was plagiarized, but rather whether it was appropriate to perpetuate Thomas Jefferson's memory by building a monument similar to one designed to glorify fascism. [57] As soon as Clarke's charge became publicly known, controversy arose around the design and its creator. William Wurster argued that hundreds of arches existed in architecture and Saarinen asserted that it was preposterous to link a basic form with any ideology. The arch was an impersonal, simple, pure form: a symbolic gateway, and Saarinen thought the whole controversy a big joke. [58]

Nevertheless, William Wurster and the jury of award drafted a rebuttal for circulation, since they feared Clarke's influence as chairman of the National Commission on Fine Arts. Their rebuttal emphasized that the Arch was of a general type going back many centuries, but nevertheless was not merely an adaptation of classical or historical motifs, for it was also one characteristic of modern architecture and engineering. The arch form was in the public domain, the jury asserted, and was not invented by the Fascists. Saarinen's arch as a commemorative monument was wonderfully suitable in its symbolism as a Gateway to the West. Their statement ended the controversy, and the New York Herald Tribune provided a bit of humor when it envisioned tall, redheaded, freckle-faced Thomas Jefferson having a good laugh over the whole matter. [59]

While the sparring was going on over this controversy, Eero Saarinen and the association went on working. Saarinen immediately made plans to build a scale model, including all features of the design, at a cost of $5,000, paid by the association. Meanwhile, Superintendent Julian Spotts sent Director Drury a draft of a proposed bill to secure congressional authorization for the project. He suggested that the association through the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission sponsor the bill. The bill did not provide for an appropriation, although it did empower the Department of the Interior to negotiate and enter into a contract with Saarinen for his services in preparing detailed plans and specifications that would depend, of course, upon congressional appropriation of money. Drury decided not to act just yet. By mid-March the association had not officially presented the results of the competition to either the Department of the Interior or the commission, which made Drury wary of any kind of National Park Service promotion of the development. Any assistance or advice given to the association by Park Service officials should be kept on an unofficial, personal basis. As far as using Park Service funds to pay for surveys and designs, Drury thought it undesirable to spend money on these types of projects until there existed definite indications that the memorial would proceed. [60]

United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission members took a step in that direction in May when they unanimously adopted a resolution approving the selection of Eero Saarinen's design. The commission recommended to the National Park Service and the secretary of the interior that Saarinen be selected as architect for the memorial's development and construction. Eero Saarinen personally attended the meeting, along with many national and local project supporters, to describe his design and show commission members the completed model. [61] Senator Alben Barkley, chairman of the commission, duly informed the Department of the Interior of the decision. On June 4 Acting Secretary of the Interior William Warne advised Barkley of his approval of the Saarinen design as the basis for the memorial's future development. The design could not be executed, he warned, until the elevated tracks in front of the memorial were removed. He assumed that the city of St. Louis would continue to work for that removal. These plans were all contingent upon future appropriations from the Congress of the United States. [62]

Chances for such an appropriation being made remained slim. Missouri Congressman Claude Bakewell asserted that any effort to obtain an appropriation would be futile because of the current world unrest. As a result of that assessment, association executive secretary Edward Dail announced the postponement of plans to obtain Federal funds. In addition, the association's office closed down in April, with all activities needing full time attention being handled by the National Park Service and by the association's executive committee. Further association expenses were approved only with a justification of importance. With these actions the association stripped down to the bare necessities to await a favorable point when their time, money, and effort could be put toward obtaining Federal appropriations. [63]

Working without a contract or guarantee that he would be hired as architect, Eero Saarinen considered the as-yet-unsolved problems of parking, railroad relocation, and zoning. After serving on the competition jury, Louis La Beaume was commissioned by the TRRA to prepare studies seeking a harmonization of their track right-of-way with Saarinen's treatment of the area. The railroad wanted to lower the elevated tracks to the grade of the top edge of the levee, with river access provided for pedestrian and automobile traffic. Since Saarinen's firm had not been officially commissioned to develop the project, Saarinen's associate J. Henderson Barr told La Beaume to inform the association of the proposal. Saarinen was alarmed at such an idea, and said that any type of train passing through the memorial area would be a detraction. La Beaume's solution meant compromising the whole idea of the memorial, and association members were at a loss to explain why La Beaume would associate himself with such a scheme. [64] Saarinen also needed more information regarding parking. He knew the National Park Service's attitude, but wondered if provisions were being made for underground parking. Edward Dail informed him of the association's decision to drop the parking plans until after the National Park Service and Congress approved the memorial project. Present officials might not be in office at that time, and their successors might not hold the same negative feelings about the issue. St. Louis retailers and businessmen remained strongly in favor of having onsite parking. [65]

Saarinen became involved with zoning when the executive committee of the association recommended to the City Plan Commission the establishment of a special zone to limit use in the memorial's immediate border, preventing unregulated growth. Saarinen approved of the action, and recommended that zoning restrictions extend to height also. St. Louis Real Estate Board members, taking an interest in the proposal, contacted Luther Ely Smith to find out just what type of protective zoning he wanted. Saarinen, together with William Wurster, developed preliminary objectives for the type of development he wanted to occur around the memorial so that it would not interfere with his vision of the memorial as a whole. He drew up four major objectives: to prevent any future buildings from dwarfing the Old Courthouse, to make the buildings along Third Street more harmonious, to enhance the redevelopment of the narrow streets between Third and Fourth Streets, and to prevent the construction of high towers which would compete with the Arch. [66]

This early involvement with such issues kept Eero Saarinen involved in the project for the rest of his life. For the next thirteen years Saarinen kept contact with National Park Service and city officials concerning various aspects of the memorial development. Even though no construction money was forthcoming for years, Saarinen expressed his views on zoning and railroad removal to lend guidance to the numerous interests attempting to carry out his design. Months passed before the Federal Government was able to execute a contract with Saarinen for his services. Decisions made by National Park Service officials concerning Saarinen's status, pay rate, and areas of responsibility lasted throughout the summer of 1948. The association donated $15,000 for cost estimate studies. While drafts of contracts authorizing Saarinen's employment as a technical and professional advisor were being drawn up, Saarinen continued to pursue investigative studies into the physical construction of the Arch. He consulted with engineer Fred Severud on wind tunnel tests as well as technical problems such as footing connections, which were paid for in part by the association's donation. United States Corps of Engineers professionals drafted topographical maps of the memorial grounds. More work needed to be done on the site, which prompted Saarinen to accept a certain amount of monetary loss to advance the project because the National Park Service did not pay him and his consultants enough to cover the costs of conducting all the necessary tests. Not until September was the Park Service ready to approve a contract with Saarinen, and then with several reservations. Saarinen was to be held responsible for the final work, regardless of how many professions contributed data; the association had to approve the use of their funds; and most importantly, Saarinen had to understand that the Government was not obligated to continue his employment in the later stages of the project's development. The contract provided for a lump sum of $7,700 for payment to Saarinen, to be spent for travel and for architectural and engineering services for the memorial's preliminary investigations, design, and cost estimates. [67]

In late October, after Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug and National Park Service Director Drury gave general approval to Saarinen's plan, various Park Service officials still needed assurances that they would have the opportunity to review the plans and submit comments. Spotts assured them that all Park Service offices would be able to review and comment after the preliminary plans and estimates were completed. In addition to placing those restrictions, the Park Service could not supply any professional landscape or architectural assistance to Saarinen. Luther Ely Smith thought it satisfactory to pay for those services out of the association's $15,000. [68]

Thus the stage was set for the next phase of memorial development. There now existed definite plans for the form the memorial would assume, and National Park Service officials ceased speaking of the "ultimate' memorial development in vague and ill-defined terms. After the competition, definite plans existed which fit their ideas for a memorial, a single architectural structure that embodied the westward expansion movement. Saarinen's plan met the standards set by the Historic Sites Act and the standards set in the minds of those who initially conceived the project. Newspaper and magazine publicity made St. Louisans realize that completion of the project might not be too far away. Increasing interest from people outside the local area added to the realization that the project would be a great asset and attraction when completed. The next step was to promote the memorial in Washington, D.C., among those holding the power to make the plans become reality. Lawmakers controlled the funds; they had to be reached with the Arch design serving as the selling point in the redevelopment of St. Louis' riverfront. The vision of Thomas Jefferson could only be memorialized with their approval.

Near the end of 1948 the association's executive committee met to assess their spheres of influence in the nation's capital. Despite the earlier closing of their office, the committee felt they had a good opportunity to successfully seek an appropriation. Several vital people were situated in key places. President Harry S Truman was familiar with the project because of his former position as Missouri senator, and Commission Chairman Alben Barkley now served as Truman's vice president. Missouri Representative Clarence Cannon served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. The Federal Government had already invested $6,500,000 in the project, and when congressional members learned of the competition results and the $15,000, donation they certainly would be impressed enough to grant appropriations for the project's completion. [69]

Or so association members thought. In reality their struggles to obtain funds would continue for years. By this time even Luther Ely Smith began losing his capacity to keep up the pressure, if not his enthusiasm, for the project. In June 1948, he stepped down as president of the association, unable to handle the arduous duties any longer. [70] Association members knew their first priority lay in getting the city of St. Louis and the Terminal Railroad Association together to remove the elevated tracks. Only then would the Federal Government provide funds to construct Eero Saarinen's stainless steel Gateway Arch.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004