Monument to the Dream gives the construction workers behind an American design icon their proper due.

Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

After years of work, a better Arch experience in St. Louis has finally arrived.

As described in great detail by Zach Mortice earlier this year for CityLab and more recently by Curbed’s Alexandra Lange, Gateway Arch National Park now has a refreshed 91-acre site, from its landscape design to its museum and visitor center. The centerpiece, Eero Saarinen’s 630-foot stainless-steel tribute to America’s westward expansion, remains flawless.

As part of the experience today, Arch visitors get to watch Monument to the Dream, a 1967 documentary film about its construction. With dramatic visuals directed by Charles Guggenheim and the confident vocals of narrator Paul Richards, it’s hard not to feel inspired by the labor that made it all happen. Richards at one point describes the workers in the film as “men closer in kin to the trappers and pioneers than they knew. They, too, were a mixed and scattered breed, men given to roaming and reshaping the face of the land.”

As the film concludes, Richards reads American historian Bernard Augustine DeVoto’s words on Lewis and Clark’s return from their western exploration in 1805 to describe the people who completed the arch made in their honor 160 years later:

By strength and skill and valor they rolled the unknown back before them. They were too weary, uncomfortable, and much too seasoned to rejoice. But the idea in the restless mind of Thomas Jefferson had been given flesh. Meriwether Lewis’s dream had come true. And the thing was done.

The camera then pulls back as the sun sets, showing St. Louis with its newest—and instantly most beloved—structure.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: Police line up outside the White House in Washington, D.C. as protests against the killing of George Floyd continue.
    Perspective

    America’s Cities Were Designed to Oppress

    Architects and planners have an obligation to protect health, safety and welfare through the spaces we design. As the George Floyd protests reveal, we’ve failed.

  2. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  3. photo: Protesters gather at Dolores Park in San Francisco, California on June 3.
    Environment

    Amid Protest and Pandemic, Urban Parks Show Their Worth

    U.S. cities are now seeing the critical role that public space plays during a crisis. But severe budget cuts are looming. Can investing in parks be part of the urban recovery?

  4. Equity

    What Happened to Crime in Camden?

    Often ranked as one of the deadliest cities in America, Camden, New Jersey, ended 2017 with its lowest homicide rate since the 1980s.

  5. Four New York City police officers arresting a man.
    Equity

    The Price of Defunding the Police

    A new report fleshes out the controversial demand to cut police department budgets and reallocate those funds into healthcare, housing, jobs, and schools. Will that make communities of color safer?

×