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Sixty-two years ago a lawyer named Luther Ely Smith organized a design competition for a memorial to westward expansion on the St. Louis riverfront. This competition produced the Gateway Arch, which was designed by the world-renowned architect Eero Saarinen.
The Arch itself is spectacular, but the national park around it is incomplete. Saarinen's vision included a national park on both sides of the Mississippi. When the Arch was constructed, however, there were no federal funds for the Illinois portion of the park.
At this point Malcolm Martin, a lawyer who had worked with Luther Ely Smith, took it upon himself to fulfill Saarinen's plan. Using his personal funds, he purchased 50 acres on the Illinois bank of the Mississippi. His intention was to make this land part of the national park. The parcel includes Malcolm Martin Park, which is now part of the Metro East Park and Recreation District.
Six years after Malcolm Martin's death, it now appears that his and Eero Saarinen's shared dream might finally be realized. Last week there was an announcement of another design competition involving the national park on the St. Louis riverfront. Among its stated goals is to "embrace the Mississippi River and the east bank in Illinois as an integral part of the national park."
The current design competition is a great opportunity to complete the job that was begun in 1947. Eero Saarinen's vision of a national park in Illinois to complement his Arch in Missouri can finally be achieved.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Tom Schlafly is an attorney in St. Louis.