Baby arch dedicated to the local men who fabricated the real deal

Times Observer photo by Stacey Gross Some of the Boilermakers who worked on the St. Louis Arch, including Archie Brittain, Donald Chambers, Tom Ristau, LeRoy Marti, Ed Atwood, Ike Erdman, Martin Hagstrom, Ken Wright, Granville Strachan.

The baby arch at the Warren County Visitor’s Bureau was officially dedicated Friday morning.

Representatives from the Retired Boilermakers, the Warren County Visitor’s Bureau, the Warren County Commissioner’s Office and other local groups and organizations gathered to celebrate the completion of a multi-year project to memorialize the local workers who constructed the wedge-shaped components of the arch that were shipped by rail to St. Louis for what became the Gateway Arch.

“This is a symbol of American spirit, dedication, and hard work. It may have gone up in St. Louis, Missouri,” said Dave Sherman, Executive Director of the Warren County Visitor’s Bureau, where the monument stands, “but it started here.”

The replica of the arch, which was placed in front of the Warren County Visitor’s Bureau in Starbrick, is a testament to the Boilermaker’s Local Lodge 659, whose workers at the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company (PDM) in Warren fabricated the steel that would become the exterior of the Gateway Arch.

About 80 men to around 280 at the height of the Arch fabrication which took place between 1962 and 1965 at PDM, the Boilermakers were involved in welding, fitting, and other jobs that ensured that the pieces that made up the Arch were created within a 1/64 inch margin of error.

Ed Atwood and his son, Walt, have spearheaded the baby arch project and the project has been made possible through the donations of time, material, and money from multiple local businesses and inviduals whose interests in seeing the project completed all revolved around the historic contribution that Warren County made to a monument recognized around the world.

Sherman called out the two men he credited with keeping the project rolling – Don Chambers, one of the Boilermakers who worked on the pieces at PDM, has spent countless hours in the erection and preparation of the baby arch monument at the Visitor’s Bureau, said Sherman. “The time you put in to make this look the way it does,” said Sherman to Chambers during the dedication, “our hats are off to you.”

And if it hadn’t been for Atwood, said Sherman, “this would not be here this morning without Ed’s vision.”

Even a boilermaker from Michigan who couldn’t be in Warren but was thrilled to see the baby arch being dedicated, Robert Larson, was aware of the dedication today. At 92 years old, his daughter, Sheryl, said he was no longer at the age where he could travel.

But Sherman and Atwood were able to forward some photos for Larson to look at and Sheryl reported in an email conversation with Sherman that “he is delighted to have the opportunity to see pictures of men he worked with and proud of the part he played in helping to fabricate this amazing structure.”

“You have made an elderly gentleman very happy,” she said.