Artistic replica of the old Hulton Bridge in Oakmont unveiled at Riverview High School - Plum

Artistic replica of the old Hulton Bridge in Oakmont unveiled at Riverview High School

Friday, December 13, 2019 | 11:29 PM

An idea formed nearly four years ago in a Riverview High School jewelry making class turned into an artistic replica of the historic Hulton Bridge in Oakmont.

Glenn Garrison, a technology education teacher and former art instructor, said a student suggested crafting jewelry from the 107-year-old bridge that was demolished in January 2016.

He said there were several challenges to that, but it got him and other students thinking.

“It’s’ made out of steel (and) the bolts are probably the size of my arm,” he said. “It would be real difficult. Plus it’s steel and would rust on our bodies.”

Tons of lead paint used to maintain the bridge’s lilac color, particularly on the lattice beams, also proved to be a safety hazard. They eventually decided on a sculpture.

Saxonburg-based Brayman Construction handled the bridge demolition and its $66 million PennDOT replacement project.

The company was able to salvage some pieces for the district. The five-piece sculpture was formally unveiled Friday afternoon.

“It’s a way to give back to the community and not to lose certain things,” said Garrison of Ligonier. “I get a little nostalgic about where I’m from, and there’s things that disappear from there that I always try to remember … This is an icon for Pittsburgh, an it’s a really big icon for Oakmont and a great opportunity for future generations to see something that was there and not there now.”

Fragments of the stone piers that held up the old bridge were used as its bases. It’s about 56 feet long with individual pieces eight feet wide and between eight and 10 feet tall.

Multi Metals of Greensburg fabricated the replica beams and its polished aluminum arches. A wave pattern was cut into its tops so a shadow could appear like a rippling river under the sculpture.

Mark Franz of HHSDR Architects of Pittsburgh donated his services to craft specifications and engineering designs.

Folino Construction of Oakmont excavated and poured its concrete foundation and installed the pieces outside the high school.

Construction took place from July 2018 through this past October.

Students also spent a few days before Thanksgiving break to paint and put the finishing touches on the project.

“It was nice that we could help him out and get it finished within those two days of nice weather,” said senior Annie Betler. “I like it now that it’s lilac and not the orange that it was.”

A previous design had the sculpture’s beams rust colored.

Senior Maya Watters said the artwork is a welcome addition to the high school.

“Our school doesn’t have much of a campus, so I think it looks nice that we actually have something outside of our school rather than just one building,” Watters said.

The project was funded through $55,000 in state Department of Community and Economic Development grants obtained by the Riverview Educational Foundation and assisted by state Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

“It was a total team effort,” said Carrie DelRosso, former foundation vice president and current board member.

Garrison said he loved how it turned out, and was still amazed with how it started.

“It grew out of a student wanting to do something different and thinking outside the box, and me taking that and trying to run with it,” he said. “Just a little spark, and every teacher has that story.”

A plaque and lighting are expected to be added sometime next year.