ST. LOUIS — The World Monuments Fund wants to help restore the Gateway Arch’s shine.
By NICHOLAS J.C. PISTOR
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
As the government shutdown that has shuttered the iconic stainless steel monument entered its second week Tuesday, the international group announced that the Arch had been placed on its watch list, informally known as the “most endangered monuments list.” The World Monuments Fund targeted the 630-foot Arch as one of 67 international monuments threatened by “neglect, vandalism, conflict or disaster.”
The designation could result in money to help pay to study and, eventually, fix the Arch’s problems, which include rust and corrosion.
“The preservation of twentieth-century materials and structural designs has proven challenging,” the group said of the Arch. “The unusual shape and extreme height of the Arch compound these difficulties, as do economic trends that have led to decreased government funding for the stewardship of national monuments. The complexity of preserving both the structural integrity and aesthetic qualities of the Arch compels cooperation between the public and private sectors to ensure that adequate expertise and resources are brought to bear in the preservation of this important landmark and national symbol.”
The New York-based group, dedicated to saving important landmarks from around the world, has issued its watch list every two years since 1996 to call attention to monument sites. The list is assembled by a panel of experts in archaeology, architecture, art history and preservation.
This year’s list includes sites in Syria, which are threatened by political unrest, as well as the ancient city of Venice, Italy.
The Post-Dispatch disclosed in 2011 that Arch officials had been investigating corrosion and stains on the monument for more than six years. The most recent study said that the rust and debris was only cosmetic and didn’t threaten the monument’s structural integrity, but that the monument needed to be cleaned. No timetable for that has been set because National Park Service officials are seeking money for additional study.
The Arch hasn’t been cleaned since it was topped off in 1965.
Frank Sanchis, the director of U.S. Programs for the World Monuments Fund, said the National Park Service had asked his organization to help raise $300,000 for an additional study that would send crews rappelling down the upper reaches of the monument for a closer look at the stains.
Sanchis said the park service had about half of that money in hand.
“We would try to raise the rest privately,” Sanchis said.
The group seeks to bolster public-private partnerships for monument preservation.
CityArchRiver 2015, which has worked to put in place $380 million of public and private money to renovate the Arch grounds, indicated on Wednesday that its commitment was limited to the grounds around the Arch, not repairs or cleaning of the monument itself.
“The Arch staining is a National Park Service maintenance issue and is not part of the CityArchRiver project which includes the Arch grounds, museum and visitor center under the Arch, Old Courthouse, Riverfront, Kiener Plaza, roadway improvements and more,” said Ryan McClure, a spokesman for CityArchRiver. “NPS is working on this issue and is coordinating directly with the World Monuments Fund regarding their interest in assisting with the process.”
Sanchis, of the monument fund, said one complicating factor was the government shutdown. His private group, which was founded in 1996 with support from American Express, has been unable to coordinate with park officials because the Arch is closed to business.
That closure could have an impact on the Arch’s bottom line as the shutdown continues. More than two million people visit the monument each year. Tickets to visit the top of the Arch cost $10 for adults and $5 for children, meaning the Arch potentially is missing out on $200,000 or more for every week it is closed.
Arch officials couldn’t be reached for comment. Emails were returned with automatic messages saying responses would given when “the government reopens.”
Nearby businesses said the shutdown of the Arch had had little impact on business — so far.
Jeff Moll, a manager at the nearby Hilton St. Louis by the Ballpark, said business had been brisk because of corporate events and baseball.
“That has helped us out,” Moll said. “I think the Arch shutdown would have more of an impact in the summer months.”
Though visitors can’t travel to the top of the monument, they can still stand outside and snap photographs.
Bryan King, the director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency at The Arch, also said the closure hadn’t had an impact on business so far. But he said “it negatively impacts the St. Louis experience.”
Brian Hall, chief marketing officer at the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, agreed. “We’ve not seen any impact, other than a handful of comments from frustrated tourists who said they were really hoping to go the top,” he said.