A river runs past it

Editorial cartoonist, co-creator of the comic strip Zits, and Cincinnati resident Jim Borgman spent some time recently in Gatewayville and came away with this observation:

Here's a laugh. In St. Louis they "admire what Cincinnati has done with its riverfront," which, as far as I can tell, is next to nothing. In St. Louis they built an arch forty years ago and then punted. Funny what constitutes success.

I have a friend who dislikes the Gateway Arch and has referred to St. Louis, with justification, as The City That Hates Its Riverfront. He shared this with me recently:

(Courtesy of Married To The Sea by Drew and Natalie Dee.)

Funny! I rather like the Arch myself, but must agree with the rest of the sentiment to a fair degree.

Some years back, in a now-defunct literary magazine named Delmar on whose board I served, essayist Rockwell Gray framed this situation well when he said, "Here" has a hole in it.

Two years ago I drove into town across the Mississippi after several exhilarating days in Boston, full of admiration for its blend of nineteenth-century dignity and contemporary architectural vision. Looking down from the bridge toward the solitary Old Cathedral, lone survivor of the earlier riverfront district that was razed in 1940, I gasped, "There's nothing there! There's no here here!" Perhaps I felt just then the haunting presence of the old port, but even the more recent city showed gaping spaces where history and structure should have been. Urban-renewed St. Louis suddenly seemed starkly empty beside the murky River, and I pined again for its earlier vitality unknown to me as a newcomer. After all that demolition, the Arch was our consolation prize. But, from a distance, as one watches it loom from odd angles over empty street corners and bare sidewalks, it seems more a ghost-spirit than a symbol of renewal.

At the very least, there are people who are still talking about about it. That's something, yes?


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