Did you know that 80 percent of the St. Louis Gateway Arch was built right here in Warren County?
Approximately 250 welders, burners, machinists, fitters and laborers of the Union Boilermakers at the Pittsburgh-Des Moines steel fabrication shop in Warren are responsible for the 900 tons of stainless steel - which at the time was the largest use of stainless steel on a single project - that has been the focal point of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Mo., for nearly 50 years.
Until recently, most of the men who built the structure, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s, hadn't visited the Gateway Arch.
Photo submitted for publication
Ike Erdman, right, discusses work done in Warren on the Gateway Arch with Charles Jones, director of the Boilermaker History Preservation Department.
Former Boilermakers Archie Brittain, Donald Chambers, Ike Erdman, Donald Gilmore, Martin Hagstrom, James Hand, David Maze, Ray Nelson, James Phillips, Kenneth Wright and Robert Youngquist made a three-day trip to the Gateway Arch on Nov. 14.
"At the time, it seemed like just another job. We never dreamed it would be this magnificent and this great of a thing," said Wright, who worked on the arch. "There's nothing like this in the whole world, and I doubt if there ever will be anything like this ever built."
The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, headquartered in Kansas City, Kan., arranged for 11 local men to take the trip and see the fruits of their labor.
The Boilermakers built the Arch sections in Warren and large base elements were constructed at Neville Island in Pittsburgh while union Ironworkers assembled them on site and other union craftsmen performed the electrical, plumbing, concrete and construction.
"Ironworkers, along with other trades, did a masterful job of erecting the Arch on site. But there is another story that has gone largely untold. The men who did the front-end work, who crafted the individual Arch sections to exacting specification before shipping them to St. Louis by rail, are part of the monument's history, too," Boilermakers International President Newton Jones said. "By organizing this event, we hope to recognize their contributions and secure their place in history."
Laurie Youngquist accompanied her grandfather, Robert Youngquist, who had never seen the Arch in person, on the trip.
"It was an emotional thing for a lot of them," she said. "He kept wanting to touch it, he couldn't believe he was part of making such a beautiful monument. He never thought that what he was building in Warren would turn out to be such an awesome beautiful thing."
Ed and Karen Atwood of Warren helped coordinate the trip and visited the Arch with the Boilermakers from Warren. Karen's father ,Walter Riggle, was a Boilermaker who worked on the Arch as a Class A welder. He died on the job at PDM in 1966 without ever seeing the completed Arch.
Ed, himself a Boilermaker who worked for a different employer, said they "want to put Warren on the map for being the people who built the arch."
"That's what we wanted to do with this trip," he said.
At the arch grounds, the men were greeted by television crews and gave interviews about their roles building the sections of the 630-foot-tall structure. They rode to the top of the arch, looked down at the Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis while standing on the structure they helped build nearly 50 years ago.
"We've had many reunions here of workers over the years, but none quite like this one. Many of you were instrumental in building the Arch, this incredible memorial, yet never saw it when it was completed," National Parks Service Superintendent Tom Bradley told them. "But it's due to your hard work that we're here today."