New Arch history delves into wheeling and dealing behind the building of an icon
At first glance, a new history of the Gateway Arch that promises to “dispel long-held myths” and cast a “provocative new light” might appear an epic attempt to throw a wet blanket over our town’s shiny national monument on the riverfront.
But even as historian Tracy Campbell weaves his thorough and often unflattering story of the city politics and private-interest ambitions that played heavily in the Arch’s formative years, he can’t help but admire the 630-foot architectural marvel that is recognized by people all over the world.
"You could go there right now and just see people quietly standing under it and staring at it and wanting to touch it. And feeling somehow happy that they’re there,’’ said Campbell, a University of Kentucky professor, in a phone interview.
His short biography, simply titled "The Gateway Arch” ($26) will be released in May as part of the Yale University Press "Icons of America” series that documents American history or culture through the study of an individual, event, object or cultural phenomenon. Subjects have included the Statue of Liberty, Fred Astaire and the hamburger.