Dean Trotter is the last living sheet metal worker from Local No. 36 in St. Louis to work on the Gateway Arch. Working on a crew of about 30, and fresh out of his apprenticeship, Trotter installed the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system in the north leg of the arch, as well as working on the top. Local No. 36 has photos on their walls of some of the guys standing on top of the arch with the city to their backs.
That’s how Trotter and his co-workers helped build the icon – in 10-hour shifts, welding ductwork to the inside walls of the legs and walking straight up a flight of stairs to the top.
“We would leave at 7 in the morning. It would take 45 minutes to walk up to the top. It was quite a challenge to get the duct work in the legs,” Trotter said. “They talk a lot about the arch’s exterior. There are good people who worked on the inside, too.”
Trotter retired about 20 years ago with 38 years of service in the industry. Today, he owns Page Storage in Overland and lives about 20 minutes from the training center and union hall, located at 2319 Chouteau Ave. Trotter didn’t finish high school, but in order to enter the apprenticeship, he passed his GED. The school he attended as a sheet metal worker is better than any higher education he could have earned, he said. He graduated debt free and has lived a good life with a career to match. Throughout the years, he also worked on high rises, casinos, car and truck plants and did a four-year stint in the Marshall Islands, near Guam.
“The sheet metal trade has really been good to me,” said Trotter, a veteran of the Marine Corps. “That was a blessing. There are a lot of memories.”
Dean Trotter can be seen inside the top of the arch (wearing overalls) where the viewing platform is currently located in the pictures below.