CityArchRiver project partners announced today that Luther Ely Smith Square, which includes the Park Over the Highway, part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, will open to the public today.
Construction began on Luther Ely Smith Square in December of 2014 to re-landscape the park just east of the Old Courthouse and join it with the new one-block land bridge over I-44. The park will lead to the new entrance of the Gateway Arch visitor center and museum. New features of Luther Ely Smith Square include more than 300 feet of benches, inviting and accessible pathways, lighting, and more than 220 new trees. Hundreds of shrubs and perennials will create a unique colorful landscape all year. Crews also installed underground cisterns that can hold up to 65,000 gallons of storm water to be reused for irrigating the park, one of the many green components of the CityArchRiver project.
This redesigned section of the park is intended to provide new gathering places for visitors before entering the Arch visitor center and museum. It will also be a great place for downtown workers and residents to enjoy a meal, relax, exercise, or play. A temporary viewing platform is installed in Luther Ely Smith Square so that visitors can watch construction of the visitor center and museum renovation. Other components of the CityArchRiver project will be completed in 2016 and 2017.
The renovation of Luther Ely Smith Square and landscaping of the Park Over the Highway was funded privately through the CityArchRiver Foundation. The square is named in honor of Luther Ely Smith (1873–1951), a civic booster and philanthropist whose advocacy led to the creation of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
Luther Ely (pronounced “EE-lee”) Smith (1873–1951) grew up in Downer’s Grove, Illinois. He obtained a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis, married, and raised three children in St. Louis. He volunteered twice for active military duty, took on cases where he could fight injustice, and committed himself to a life-long campaign of public service. Smith was relentless about the riverfront monument. When people claimed to be too busy to meet him for lunch, he would invite them to coffee at 7:30 a.m. When it looked as if the committee wasn’t going to reach its goal of $225,000 for the architecture competition in 1947, he personally donated $40,000 to make up the difference.The park between the Old Courthouse and the Arch grounds is named in honor of him.