Serving St. Louis’ Visitors

Let’s say you’re a tourist wandering around downtown St. Louis looking to pick up a fun souvenir or needing directions to a nearby attraction.  Where do you go?  Well, we have a place for you!

Head on over to Kiener Plaza, just west of Gateway Arch National Park, and look for the bright green Visitor Center.  That’s where you’ll find JNPA’s newest little retail shop as well as a visitor information booth staffed by Explore St. Louis.  Their friendly personnel can direct visitors to a wide range of tourist destinations and activities in the region.

And for those who want to take home a special souvenir from their visit, our store offers shirts, hats, drinkware and collectibles that sport a colorful St. Louis logo.

Credit: Gateway Arch Park Foundation

Kiener Plaza sits just west of the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch.   The city park features winding paths and a lawn that can accommodate a variety of events, including a bicycle parking grove, a shade garden with café tables and chairs, benches, a fountain garden with a splash pad, a children’s play garden, and a statue honoring former Olympian Harry Kiener.

Stop by our shop and say hello next time you’re downtown.  Our store hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday now through Labor Day.

Meet the New Leader at Gateway Arch National Park

Gateway Arch National Park has a new superintendent.  Jeremy Sweat, a 15-year veteran of the National Park Service, took over the job late last year.  He oversees operations not only for the Gateway Arch but also for Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park.

Sweat has a background in resource management and policy at the park, regional and national levels, and has experience working with non-profit partners, with other agencies, and with local communities.  JNPA is excited to be working with him.

We recently caught up with Jeremy Sweat to learn a little more about him.

Why did you start working for the National Park Service?   

My first experience working in a national park was as an undergrad archeological field school student at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2004. The field school was a partnership between the University of Tennessee and the NPS, so we got to live and work in the park for the summer. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to the Smokies in 2005 as a graduate teaching assistant to supervise the field school. That winter the park archeologist encouraged me to apply for a seasonal position as an archeological technician and I was hired in the summer of 2006 to conduct backcountry archeological surveys. After that first season, I fell in love with the mission and the people, and never left the NPS.

Credit: Debbie Franke

What is particularly special about Gateway Arch National Park, or why should someone visit? 

Aside from the incredible local and regional pride that the park inspires, one of my favorite things about Gateway Arch National Park is how relevant the park’s story is to America today. The Arch helps to tell the story of the European American settlement of the west, which for some people meant new opportunities and greater freedom, while for other people, it meant the loss of rights, lands, and freedom. The Old Courthouse is a place where people fought for racial equality, women’s rights, and voting rights during the 19th century. Telling these complicated, challenging stories gives our visitors the opportunity to connect that history with many of the challenges and conversations that are still happening in America today.  

What’s your favorite part of the job, or what do you hope to accomplish at Gateway Arch National Park?  

My favorite part of the job is seeing people enjoy the park. Each time I look out my window and see families enjoying the Arch grounds, or when I walk through the museum and see children learning about history, it reminds me why I joined the NPS.

What kinds of careers are available in the Park Service?

Honestly, it would be easier to make a list of what careers are not available in the NPS. If you look at the 423 sites that make up the national park system, there are opportunities for nearly every kind of skill and profession. Everyone knows that we hire park rangers, but we also have jobs for scientists, plumbers, law enforcement officers, engineers, carpenters, lifeguards, boat captains, arborists, livestock supervisors, scuba divers, veterinarians, accountants, and more. I encourage anyone who is interested in working for the NPS to learn more about how their skills might be needed in a park or office around the country. 

What’s your favorite activity to do at the park?

I moved here in the middle of winter, so now that it is getting warmer, I enjoy just being out in the park on sunny days. It’s nice to bike through the park on my way home from work and see so many people from the local community, and from around the country and world, here enjoying this place.

The park’s best kept secret is…?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a well-kept secret, would it? 

How Many National Park Sites Have YOU Visited?

The National Park Service system currently includes 423 sites throughout the United States and its territories.  These range from national monuments and battlefields to national historic sites and recreation areas to national rivers and seashores. 

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t visited the majority of these places (most of us haven’t!). But luckily, National Park Week is just around the corner – a perfect time to add to your NPS “life list.”

National Park Week is an annual celebration jointly hosted by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation to encourage everyone to discover our nation’s diverse historic, natural, and cultural treasures.  This year, the week runs from April 16 through 24.  Parks across the country will host a variety of special programs, events, and digital experiences, including National Junior Ranger Day for kids on Saturday April 23.  You can find out more about programs and themes you might be interested in by going here.  

Another bonus for park visitors during National Park Week – entrance fees are waived at all parks on Saturday April 16.  (Other 2022 free fee days can be found here).  Luckily, there are never entry fees at JNPA’s partner parks but each of them would be glad to see you in April, or any time!

If you’re planning to visit any of the 63 parks that have “national park” in their name, you’ll want a copy of National Geographic’s national park guide as well as the Passport to Your National Parks, which not only contains park information but allows you to collect the passport stamps from every park you visit. 

The Legacy of the Dred Scott Decision

The road to freedom from slavery was a long one for Dred and Harriet Scott.  Just over 170 years ago, on March 22, 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that enslaved people entering a free territory were not automatically free, delivering a blow to the hopes and dreams of the Missouri couple. While this was not the end of the Scotts’ pursuit for freedom, this blight on Missouri history was not corrected for over a century.

Dred Scott was born in Virginia sometime around 1799. He was enslaved by the Blow family, who moved him to Alabama and then Missouri. He was then sold to an army surgeon, Dr. John Emerson, who took him to Illinois, a free state, and then Fort Snelling, Wisconsin, a free territory. At Fort Snelling, Dred met and married Harriet Robinson, an enslaved woman whose owner transferred ownership of Harriet to Dr. Emerson, who then brought the couple back to St. Louis.

In 1846, the Scotts sued for their freedom at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis on the grounds that they had lived in a free territory, and Missouri had been known to follow the legal precedent of “once free, always free.” However, the Scotts lost their case on a technicality and began a decade of litigation that would lead to unfavorable rulings in both the Missouri Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court.

The final decision from the United States Supreme Court in March 1857 ruled that Black people, whether free or enslaved, were not United States citizens and therefore had no right to sue in federal court. The court also ruled that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional, and that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in territories. This outraged abolitionists and is thought to have hastened the onset of the Civil War.

Dred Scott’s “free negro bond.” Credit: Missouri Historical Society

The Scotts did eventually gain their freedom later in 1857, after the son of Dred’s original enslaver purchased and subsequently emancipated their family. Sadly, Dred Scott passed away the following year from tuberculosis.

To watch a dramatic re-enactment of a conversation between Dred and Harriet Scott, you can view the short video A Bid for Freedom.  JNPA helped produce this video for Gateway Arch National Park.

It was not until 2021 that the Missouri State Legislature finally passed House Concurrent Resolution 4, formally denouncing the Dred Scott decision. JNPA Board Member Lynne Jackson — Dred and Harriet Scott’s great-great granddaughter — is the President and Founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. She said:

We started seriously inquiring about a renunciation of the 1852 Dred Scott decision in 2013 and hoped something along that order would be in the Missouri time capsule in 2015. The next serious push was in 2018 when we came close to a senate vote, but time ran out. We are very pleased at the bi-partisan and unanimous votes by the MO State Legislature in 2021.”

The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation continues the work of recognizing the Scott Family’s place in history both at the Old Courthouse in Gateway Arch National Park and through efforts to construct an educational memorial at Dred Scott’s gravesite in St. Louis’ Calvary Cemetery.