The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which houses the Gateway Arch and the Old Courthouse where the Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom, is now to be known as Gateway Arch National Park after Congress passed the legislation and the President signed it into law last week.
The site has been under construction for several years, and a land bridge was constructed over a highway that separated the Arch area from the Courthouse and the rest of downtown St. Louis. The project, which is set to be complete this summer, moves the entrance to the Arch from its feet to a centered gallery facing the courthouse. The riverfront was raised 30 inches to decrease flood risk and 11 acres were added to the park, including 5.4 miles of new pathways. The underground Museum of Westward Expansion has received a facelift and a 46,000-square-foot addition. The $380 million project was partly funded by $221 million in private donations.
The name change is somewhat controversial among National Park enthusiasts, who argue that the two iconic structures are clearly monuments, not parks. The new park will be the only with the “National Park” designation that does not protect an expanse of natural lands. The change is viewed by some as a move to bolster tourism by Missouri legislators, but supporters say the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial” was clunky and unmemorable. Visitation has been down over the last few years, but that likely is due in large part to the construction project that has hindered access.
Regardless of the nomenclature controversy, the National Park Service treats all of its parks, monuments, historic sites, seashores and other units the same. They are all considered “National Parks.