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McCullough honored with Wendell August replica of namesake bridge

| Monday, March 17, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Wendell August Forge
The completed replica of the David McCullough Bridge (16th Street) created by Wendell August Forge.
Wendell August Forge
A look at the base of the David McCullough Bridge replica
Wendell August Forge
A closeup of the right side of the David McCullough Bridge replica.
Wendell August Forge
The winged horses for the end of the David McCullough Bridge replica.
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The David McCullough Bridge extends 16th Street across the Allegheny River. Saturday, March 21, 2015.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh native, David McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, stands on the 16th Street Bridge on Friday. The bridge will soon be named the David McCullough Bridge.
Wendell August Forge
The original sketch for a replica of the David McCullough Bridge (16th Street) made by Wendell August Forge.
Wendell August Forge
Wax models of the winged horses for the end of the David McCullogh Bridge replica created by Wendell August Forge
Wendell August Forge
The bridge repiica before it was placed in a shadow box.
Justin Merriman | Trib Total Media
Point Breeze native David McCullough is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author.

Close-up photography, hard work by a crew at the Wendell August metal works and a dab or two of Miracle-Gro have created a replica of Pittsburgh's David McCullough Bridge for its namesake.

“This definitely took us out of our comfort zones,” says Michael Youngo, one of the metal crafters who worked on it at the Mercer County company. “But now that we've done it, I think we will be going that way again.”

The sculpture of the bridge will be given March 19 to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Pittsburgh native McCullough at the chairman's gala of the American Ireland Fund at Heinz Field on the North Shore.

Theresa Kaufman, Irish Fund event coordinator, says the replica was chosen as a “meaningful” way to honor McCullough, after whom the bridge at 16th Street was renamed in July 2013.

He is getting the chairman's award for his “commitment to the community,” she says, citing his dedication to mentioning this area's role in history.

Wendell August president Will Knecht says he was thrilled to be involved in the creation, which he adds was “not the usual project” for the firm that's often recognized for its ornaments and decorative pieces. A recent project were pieces made from the dismantled roof of the Civic Arena.

Knecht says the commission is a tribute to the artisans and craftsmen at the company. He was so excited about the project, he checked in on it every day, but he admits he had nothing to do with the artistry that created it.

The replica is 40 inches long by 12 inches high and weighs about 55 pounds in its shadow box. The model bridge is made of pewter, copper and bronze.

Youngo, die-cutting manufacturing lead at Wendell August, says the piece is done in what he calls “2 12-D” because it is narrower than it would be in a full 3-D representation. It also is a little shorter than if it were truly to scale, he says.

Youngo credits colleagues Steve Johnson and Adam Post for their work in bringing the piece to life.

One of the hardest jobs was making the Pegasus statues at the ends of the bridge, Youngo says. The job involved making wax models and then casting bronze images at the Slippery Rock University sculpture department.

Then, he says, they dabbed them in Miracle-Gro plant food to give them the look of years of weathering.

“I was having nightmares about,” he says with a laugh.

The American Irish Fund has raised $450 million for Irish causes in that country and around the world since it was founded in 1987 in the merger of the Irish Fund and the American Irish Foundation.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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