Thursday, March 30, 2023

2021-03-30: Visiting history in St Louis, Missouri via Route 66 and the Gateway Arch on Day 8 of our 3404 Roadtrip Adventure

Welcome back friends! Today we finally make it out of the State of Illinois, cross over the Mighty Mississippi River, and into St. Louis Missouri. We'll pay our respects to some notable figures buried in the Bellefontaine Cemetery and I finally get a chance to stop for a visit to the St Louis Gateway Arch. So hop on board as we continue to Geocache through history...

Our first stop was a quick geocache (GC50RQ2) find in Greenville, Illinois to mark our overnight stay and getting a find for Bond County.

Then we jump onto I-70 westbound. Instead of taking it all the way into St Louis, we detour onto the northern I-270 route. This not only takes us into Madison County, IL, but also over to the Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge and an Earthcache (GC68M54). Over its 50 year history, Route 66 crossed the Mississippi River at five different locations: 1) McKinley Bridge, 2) MacArthur Bridge, 3) Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, 4) MLK Jr Memorial Bridge and 5) Poplar Street Bridge.

This crooked crossing spanning the Mississippi River was a memorable passage for Route 66 travelers. The privately funded bridge was built in 1929 as a toll bridge. The distinctive 22-degree bend in the middle resulted from the need to build on solid rock footings on the river floor. Eventually turned over to the city of Madison, IL, it became the US-66 Northern Bypass from 1936-1965. In 1967, the New Chain of Rocks Bridge opened just to the north replacing this one to vehicular traffic. Now it is a pedestrian / bicycle bridge. We walked out to the center where Illinois meets Missouri where there was also a virtual geocache (GC2258).

There is also one stage of a 5-part Adventure Lab Cache here. We were only able to complete the one question as the other 4 stages were back in the other direction and I'm not backtracking.

These two structures you see here are just south of the bridge and look like they're a couple of secluded castles. In reality, they are water intakes for a series of locks and dams for the Chain of Rocks Canal to the east. This 17-mile section of the Mississippi River is very treacherous to navigate with its rocky bottom. In the 1940's-50's, the Army Corp of Engineers created a straight canal on the eastside of Chouteau Island to make it easier for ships and barges to navigate and bypass the rocky rapids.

Next we looped up, around, and crossed the mighty river on the New Chain of Rocks Bridge into Missouri. Our first stop over here was in the Bellefontaine Cemetery just a few miles in. So there was one gravesite we came to see. But upon arriving, we discovered there was so much more history here to see. Such as...

... William Clark (GC7B7DX) of the Lewis and Clark explorers. Born in Caroline County Virginia, Clark moved with his family to Louisville, Kentucky in 1785. In 1789, he joined the militia. He was commissioned a lieutenant in the regular army in 1792. One of the men briefly under his command was Meriwether Lewis. Clark left the army in 1796. In 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis invited Clark to share the leadership of a corps of exploration in an extensive journey into the vast uncharted area newly acquired by the United States with the Louisiana Purchase. Clark acted as mapmaker and artist, portraying in great detail the life they observed.

After Clark's successful return from the Pacific coast three years later, President Jefferson awarded him 1,600 acres and made him Brigadier General of militia for the Louisiana Territory as well as superintendent of Indian affairs. He held that post the rest of his life. From 1813, he served as governor of the Missouri Territory. Clark died in St. Louis where a 35-foot gray granite obelisk was erected to mark his grave.

The Wainwright Tomb is one of Bellefontaine Cemetery’s most well-known mausoleums. It was designed in 1891 by renowned architect Louis Sullivan. Entombed here is Elis Wainwright, a millionaire brewer who lived from 1850 – 1924. He’s also known for the Wainwright Building in downtown St. Louis, one of the world’s first skyscrapers. Notably, Louis Sullivan designed that too. But the tomb was originally constructed for his wife Charlotte who’d passed away at the age of 34. Wainwright would then go on the run to Paris after being indicted in a bribery scandal. Decades later, he was finally entombed next to his wife upon his death.

The grave of Herman Luyties (1871 – 1921) is among the most unique at Bellefontaine Cemetery. And it has a rather creepy backstory. Luyties, the owner of the first drug store in St. Louis, took a trip to Italy at the turn of the 20th century. There, he fell in love with a model who ultimately rejected his proposal for marriage. But Luyties couldn’t let her out of his mind, and he even commissioned a sculptor to immortalize his former lover in stone. Now, in some form at least, Luyties can lie forever with the woman who wouldn’t have him. Over time, the marble statue gradually eroded due to weather, and so it was later placed in the glass box we see it in now.

Adolphus Busch (1839 – 1913) was a well-known brewer who ran the Anheuser-Busch Company with his father-in-law, Eberhard Anheuser. And like Anheuser, Busch was also born in Germany. As a young adult he emigrated to St. Louis which was home to a large German community at the time. And that meant that there was also a large market for beer. Following Anheuser’s death, Busch became president of the company. And thanks to his marketing expertise and innovations like refrigerated freight cars, he helped Budweiser become a nationally recognized beer brand in the 19th century.

Today at Bellefontaine, the Busch Mausoleum is one of the more notable tombs on display. It was designed by the Barnett, Haynes & Barnett architectural firm in the Bavarian Gothic style but made with local stone. It supposedly cost around $250,000 to build at the time, which equates to over a couple million dollars today!

The main reason for stopping by this cemetery was to visit the gravesite of Rush Hudson Limbaugh III. The majority of people know the name, many who listened loved him, and the others who only know what was told about him probably hated him. Rush was a radio personality, political commentator, and author. He got his start in radio in 1971 at radio station WIXZ as a DJ in Pennsylvania reporting "farm news." Within 18 months, however, he was fired due to a "personality conflict" with the program director. He went through a number of radio stations, working as a deejay and a talk show host, but it wasn't until 1984, when he became famous with his radio show on KFBK in Sacramento, California. He could voice any opinion he felt, regardless of how controversial.

(At the time of our visit, Rush's headstone had yet to be installed.)

His show was picked up by ABC-Radio in 1988, now being broadcast all over the country for what would be over three decades. It eventually rose to 600 stations and 27 million weekly listeners. Limbaugh was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1993 and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998. Additionally, he was a five-time winner of the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award for Excellence in Syndicated and Network Broadcasting. Limbaugh's unabashed love of country and belief in American Exceptionalism caused detractors to seek controversy in every broadcast.

He was well liked for his charity work, using his show for the annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Telethon and the Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation. He also was not afraid of poking fun of himself, voicing himself in cameos for three episodes of Family Guy.

Limbaugh, a cigar and former cigarette smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer, eight days after his 69th birthday. On February 4th, during President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address, he awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After his lung cancer diagnosis, he continued working on his radio show as much as he could. "I told the staff that I have a deeply personal relationship with God." Limbaugh died on February 17, 2021, at the age of 70.

(A more recent photo with the headstone.)

Continuing south for several miles along the banks of the Mississippi River into St Louis, we finally found a parking spot a few blocks away from the Gateway Arch (GC7ED). Along the way we spot the Tom Sawyer River Boat getting ready to pass underneath the historic Eads Bridge. This was the first bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis. It was a major engineering feat, the largest bridge built at that time and the very first steel bridge. Completed in 1874, it is the oldest bridge standing on the Mississippi River. It was designed and built by James Buchanan Eads, an engineer famous for his ironclad gunboats built for the Union in the Civil War.

Nearing the Arch, we pass by this statue of Lewis and Clark and their dog coming ashore after crossing the river during their expedition.

During my days as a truck driver, I used to pass through St Louis on Interstate 40 often and could only get a view of the Gateway Arch out my window. I had always wanted to stop for a closer look, but parking a 70' long 18-wheeler within walking distance in downtown St Louis is probably not an easy task. Now, finally, we are able to get an up-close look at this monument.

Now for some history and facts. The St Louis Gateway Arch (GC7ED) is 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide at it base. The idea for a memorial to commemorate the western expansion of the United States began to take shape in 1933. On June 15, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill into law, instituting the United States Territorial Expansion Memorial Commission. In December 1934, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Association discussed organizing an architectural competition to determine the design of the monument. Local architect Louis LeBeaume had drawn up competition guidelines by January 1935. On December 21, 1935, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7253 to approve the memorial and 82-acre National Historic Site.

On February 18, 1948, Eero Saarinen's design was chosen from among the initial 172 entries in the design contest. After much deliberation and planning, the official groundbreaking ceremony finally occurred on June 23, 1959 at 10:30 AM. The first order of business was to build a tunnel and reroute the railroad tracks. In 1961, the foundation of the structure was laid and construction of the Arch itself began on February 12, 1963 as the first steel triangle of the south leg was set in place. The arch's visitor center opened on June 10, 1967, and the tram began operating on July 24. Upon it's competition, the arch became the tallest memorial in the United States and the tallest stainless steel monument in the world. The official dedication ceremony was finally held on May 25, 1968 by then Vice-President Hubert Humphrey.

Because of its tight quarters inside and limited exits, the Secret Service has forbidden all Presidents from ascending the Gateway Arch due to security concerns. The only exception was made in 1967 when he was 77 years old, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in town to give a speech. He had signed the order for the construction of the Arch in 1954. He paid a visit to the site after it had already closed to the public and insisted he get a ride on the tram to the top.

One more stop in St Louis before leaving the downtown traffic. I've played the game of chess since I was a kid. I taught my two sons when they were young. And when they started in a private Christian School, I formed and hosted the Chess Club for 2 years. So when I saw this virtual geocache at the World Chess Hall of Fame, we just had to stop. Outside they have the Guinness Record World's Largest Chess Piece (GC890GN) at 20 feet tall and a 9'2" diameter base and weighing in at 10,860 pounds!

Now to get out of the city to the rural open roads, find something to eat, and get some rest. To follow along on our travels and keep up with my latest blogs, you may do so here of course by clicking the "Follow" button to the right. But also by using one or more of your favorite of these social media platforms: FacebookMeWeGabRedditParlorTwitterGETTRInstagram, and TruthSocial. These all link directly to my profiles. Again, please feel free to comment and / or share.

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