Back to top

SLCL Foundation Presents Gateway Arch Historian Jim Merkel

Press Release

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 10:00a.m.

The St. Louis County Library Foundation is pleased to present local historian and author Jim Merkel on Tuesday, July 1 at 7:00 p.m. at Library Headquarters, 1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd. Merkel will discuss his book “The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, The Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch.”

The program is free and open to the public. Books will be available for purchase at the event.The event is co-sponsored by Maryville University.  

The Gateway Arch is one of America's most distinctive and beloved national monuments. Much has been written about the Arch, but no book has captured the legend, lore, and spirit behind its conception and construction, until now.

“The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch” compiles well-known and rare stories about the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and fearless builders involved in an incredible undertaking that courted as much controversy as it did enthusiasm.

The dreamers included Luther Ely Smith, the St. Louis mover and shaker who conceived a riverfront memorial for Thomas Jefferson. Topping the list of schemers was Democratic Mayor Bernard Dickmann, who threatened to throw Missouri to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Republican opponent if the president wouldn't provide money for Smith's memorial. The biggest of all the dreamers, the architect Eero Saarinen, spent fourteen years tweaking his design for a Gateway Arch but never lived to see it built. That was left to intrepid workers who walked without lanyards hundreds of feet above the ground.

Today, 2.5 million visit the Gateway Arch every year, and more than 100,000 motorists view the 63-story monument daily from miles away and up close. Many already comprehend its symbolic meaning and physical beauty. “The Making of An Icon” helps us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that made the Arch happen.

Growing up in suburban St. Louis, author and journalist Jim Merkel went on numerous Sunday afternoon drives with his family to watch the construction of the Gateway Arch. His two previous books are “Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side” and “Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans.”

Program sites are accessible. Upon two weeks notice, accommodations will be made for persons with disabilities. Contact St. Louis County Library by phone 314-994-3300 or visit