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Meet Silas Garrett, Jr., the U.S. Army engineer and former pilot who knew the Arch needed a light

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Silas Garrett, Jr.

Did you know? 

In the 1960s, Silas Grifton Garrett, Jr., a Black World War II veteran and U.S. Army engineer, was working near the Gateway Arch during its construction. One day, he noticed a flaw in the otherwise impeccable architectural design: it was missing a light at the top. 

As a former pilot, Garrett knew the importance of having a guiding light on such an immense structure. The National Park Service eventually approved his proposed concept and asked him to supervise the lighting system’s installation. When recounting the tale to KSDK, his daughter Celeste said he spent hours “tinkering” in the garage and producing hosts of drawings on graph paper. He made at least 13 trips to the top of the Arch to supervise, never with a harness, she said, and after the installation, he returned more than 25 times for updates and routine maintenance. 

Garrett died in 2015, but his legacy lives on. Today, there remains a bright red beacon of light beaming from the top of the Gateway Arch. Garrett’s original light was replaced with a more efficient LED in 2013, but visitors to the Museum will find the original proudly shining from the top of the Keystone exhibit in the tram lobby.