ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- The loft "gateway arch," at 630 feet the nation's tallest memorial and 75 feet higher than the Washington monument, was "topped off" Thursday after three years a-building.
A 10-ton keystone section was raised into place atop two curving stainless steel legs on the Mississippi River waterfront.
The arch, a symbol of St. Louis' role as "gateway to the West," was more than 30 years in the planning stage and required more than $11.5 million and three years to build.
It was built in honor of the bicentennial of this one-time fur trading center.
A crowd estimated by police at 10,000 persons watched from the riverfront and from downtown office buildings as the keystone section was raised by cable -- an American flag atop it -- more than 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
The soaring legs of the arch were held 8 1/2 feet apart under 450 tons of pressure as the keystone section was fitting in with 3 inches to spare on either side.
Fifteen iron workers eased the section into place. The tricky operation was directed by Walter Mallory, a superintendent of the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Co. and a native of Tullahoma, Tenn.
Fire hoses were run to the top of the south leg to cool it with water. The water and the early start prevented the steel leg from expanding so much under the sun's heat that the legs could not be joined properly.
The operation was witnessed by Mrs. Aline Saarinen, widow of architect Eero Saarinen who designed the arch but died in 1961 before construction was begun.