A man in Rhode Island has a bridge to sell you.
Believe it — Robert Eva, a retired sheet metal worker from Narragansett, Rhode Island, spent years constructing an 8 1/2 foot copper model of the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, the iconic cable-stayed span by TD Garden in Boston. He was inspired to recreate the Zakim while driving across it every morning to a job in Salem in 2015.
“Something about the bridge when you look at it, it just mesmerizes people, it just puts them in a happy place,” he said. “I just fell in love with it, I was like, ‘Wow, I think I can design this.”
Various types of metals and alloys make up the different elements of the bridge, all utilitarian materials used for roofing, cladding, welding, and soldering. The whole thing is mounted on blue-stained poplar boards meant to evoke the Charles River, lifted by a large welded base custom-made by Eva’s friend.
It even has dozens of carefully wired LED lights forming tiny street lamps along the road, illuminating the bridge and the toy cars driving across it. The lights were an obstacle for Eva, who worked with Sheet Metal Workers Local 17 for around 35 years but didn’t dabble much in electric work. He said there is around 60 feet of wiring under the bridge.
“It’s a pleasure to look at once it lights up,” Eva said.
Another challenge was figuring out what to use for the small elements that connect the bridge’s cables to the towers. After much deliberation, he realized that specific contact tips used for welding were the perfect shape.
“I had to go around to a few welding supply houses, because when you need hundreds of these tips, it is an unusual order,” Eva said. “I had to find a sympathetic owner that would hear my cause and make me somewhat of a deal for all the tip connectors for my art project.”
The 57-year-old started making whimsical objects and architectural models out of copper 25 years ago — intricate roses and abstract turkeys, miniature shacks and cabanas, covered bridges and water wheels and birdfeeders, replicas of lighthouses and power stations in Rhode Island. But the Zakim was by far Eva’s biggest project. He estimates that he worked on and off for 640 hours over five years before finally finishing it last March.
“My wife is a saint, she couldn’t even go down to the cellar because I had my bridge everywhere,” Eva said.
The model is not to scale, and the dark hues of copper and lead and zinc don’t match the Zakim’s white cables or concrete towers, but that doesn’t matter to Eva.
“It’s not an exact replica, but it’s something that works for me,” he said.
Eva enjoyed the piece in his living room after he completed it, with neighbors “oohing and aahing” when they visited. But after several months, he decided he wanted other people to enjoy it. The problem was that he and his wife Rebecca weren’t sure how to go about selling it, and they weren’t particularly savvy with online marketplaces.
“We’re a couple of 50-something-year-olds,” he said.
At the recommendation of his sister, Eva eventually persuaded his wife to post a listing for the model this weekend in a large private buy-and-sell group on Facebook.
The price tag: $25,000, a reasonable price for an artisan piece made with very pricey materials and many, many hours of labor. Some commenters bristled at the high price tag, but many others were awed by the model. (To be fair, a buy-and-sell Facebook group is more fit for old furniture and video game consoles, not massive and expensive art pieces that belong in a lobby or plaza.)
But Eva isn’t really looking to make a profit. He said he’d cut the price by more than half if it could be displayed publicly, and that he’d consider any offer from serious buyers. His dream is to have it placed in a Boston institution, like Logan Airport or one of the city’s many colleges or hospitals. He said he would personally deliver the model, which weighs hundreds of pounds.
“The money that I’m asking isn’t the big thing with me,” he said. “I’d absolutely love to get it somewhere where the public could enjoy it.”
Anyone interested in purchasing the piece can contact Eva at [email protected]
“It’s fun and it makes me happy, and as long as I can make other people happy, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
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