PHOENIX – Since 1991, an odd-looking arch has spanned McDowell Road just east of 16th Street. It’s made of structurally reinforced steel and painted with white enamel and, in a way, resembles Roman numerals careening high above the street.
Everyone who travels that route, either daily or occasionally, notices the structure, but few know what it’s called and why it’s there. Here’s why:
Artist Michelle Stuhl designed the arch for the McDowell Road Gateway Public Art Project and it was emplaced in 1991 to create a neighborhood identity for business places in the area. The design refers to the silhouettes of area buildings, and the things that look like Roman numerals across the top of the arch form an abstract of a picket fence.
The area was the first major business district outside of downtown Phoenix and businesses were booming there in the 1950s. Economic downturns and shifting demographics changed all that, so the arch was installed not only as a reminder of the good times but also an effort to bring them back.
And, although there’s no official name attached, most call it “the Gateway Arch.”