A New Way To Look At St. Louis

Malcom Martin keeps an eye on the Gateway City.

April 20 was the day I’d been waiting for for months. Warm, but not too warm. Plenty of sunshine. Not a terribly busy day at work. And the trees are greening up nicely, filling out enough so that, from a distance, they look pretty darn summery.

I took my camera to work. And at lunchtime — actually a few minutes early — I packed up and headed for the river.

First stop, the Lewis & Clark statue, my favorite piece of submersible sculpture in the world. The statue is sometimes on the wharf, sometimes in the river. Today, with the Mississippi at about 21.1 feet on the St. Louis gauge, it was in the river, but certainly not as deep as I’ve seen it. Someday I’ll post a series of pictures of this statue at various river stages.

But not today.

In the background you see the Eads Bridge. I had spent some time on that bridge the day before, watching politicians give speeches about a new bridge that’s going to be built about half a mile upriver. Now I can tolerate politicians a lot more than most people, but the ceremony — it was a “groundbreaking” for the new bridge, if you can believe that — did get a little tedious before it was over. And however nice the new bridge is, it’ll never match the majesty of the Eads Bridge. Which is where I was headed next.

As I was down by Lewis and Clark, I saw a northbound tow approaching the Poplar Street Bridge. So I double-timed it up Washington Ave. to the entrance to the bridge (no easy feat, if you know Washington Ave.), and then out onto the bridge in time to get some good pictures of the Bridget Caulley, a Kirby Corporation towboat pushing a tow of liquid barges upriver. Most people reading this won’t care a bit about a picture of a towboat, but believe me, there is a whole community of folks on the Internet who swap those pictures back and forth. I’m not one of them, but I do enjoy trying to get a good boat picture now and then.

With no more tows in sight, I continued east on the bridge to the Casino Queen Metro Link stop, where a staircase goes down to the street. From there, I walked half a mile or so south, past the casino and the Cargill grain elevator. Behind the elevator, I could see the Gateway Geyser in action, so I hustled to try to get up to it to get a picture or two. I’d never been close to this geyser before … and unfortunately, today I was a little too late to get as close as I wanted. I got a few pictures of it before it shut down — it only runs for 15 minutes or so, twice a day — and next time I’ll plan my trip a little better.

From there, though, I went to explore my main destination on this trek — the new overlook directly opposite the Arch. I’d heard a little bit about this, and recently I’d noticed it from my office window, and seen satellite and bird’s eye views on Google Maps and Bing.

It turns out to be a park, called the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. It includes 34 acres of land, leading from the geyser to the overlook. The land was preserved by an organization called Gateway Center for years. Martin was Gateway Center’s founder and benefactor, and had the dream of a park across the river from St. Louis to complement the Arch and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. The geyser went into operation about 15 years ago; the overlook opened in the spring of 2009.

To reach the top, you ascend a series of long ramps, which themselves provide interesting views of the park, the geyser, the city, and yes, the Cargill elevator.

I could see from the ground that there was a guy up there, which was a wee bit disconcerting, because if I’m going to be wandering around taking pictures it’s always nicer to not have to worry about being in someone else’s way. But it’s not like I own the place or anything. Anyway, the guy sitting at the top turned out to be none other than Malcolm Martin himself, preserved in bronze, sitting and looking out over the city. Now THAT was disconcerting, let me tell you; as I snapped my pictures, every time I would turn my head, there was this guy sitting there, not moving.

But anyway, He DOES own the place, or at least he paid for it, and he has the best view of the city. I expect he’ll have a lot of company when Fair St. Louis shoots off the fireworks on the weekend of July 4.

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