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LEGO maniacs invited to build Brooklyn Bridge replica at library

Kevin Lesniak, left, and Lucius Deslauriers get to work on building a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge in LEGO at the South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg on Tuesday, June 18. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

SAXONBURG — About a dozen LEGO maniacs came to the South Butler Community Library on Tuesday, June 18 to try their hand at replicating Saxonburg’s pride and joy, the Brooklyn Bridge.

The youngsters’ goal was to match the work of LEGO builder Ben Jackson, who brought his 13-inch-tall replica of the section of the bridge, complete with LEGO figurines of its figureheads: Washington and Emily Roebling.

“I just thought that the whole picture of it ... would just make for a really fun story and a great experience for LEGO lovers,” Jackson said.

Jackson came all the way from New York City, where he has lived for seven years. Prior to this, Jackson was a resident of Pittsburgh, but had never visited Saxonburg itself until last month, when he showed his bridge replica to the public at the library during a screening of a documentary on the Roebling family.

“When I designed the bridge, I reached out to the Saxonburg Museum, so they were interested,” Jackson said. “That's when I actually came out to visit Saxonburg for the first time. I brought the bridge and I gave a little presentation on it.”

Jackson said his fascination with bridges began with his early days in Pittsburgh, which is nicknamed “The City of Bridges.”

“I was around a lot of bridges, so I was always fascinated by their architecture and their structure and everything,” Jackson said.

When he entered LEGO-building as a hobby, he was looking for a major project, and his spark of inspiration came from the Brooklyn Bridge diagram in his house.

“I thought that would be a really cool LEGO set because the Brooklyn Bridge itself is just built with bricks,” Jackson said. “It's very easy to imagine it becoming a LEGO set.”

As Jackson toiled with constructing his LEGO bridge replica, he became enamored with the tale of the men and women who built the real thing, including its architect: John Roebling, co-founder of the borough of Saxonburg and the inventor of the wire rope that made the bridge possible.

John died in a freak accident before the bridge’s construction even began, leaving it in the hands of his son, Washington, and daughter-in-law Emily.

“I started learning more about the history of it and about the designers, the engineers and the fascinating story that they have,” Jackson said.

Jackson has submitted his Brooklyn Bridge replica to LEGO Ideas, where — as the name suggests — LEGO builders submit ideas for future officially-produced LEGO sets. If a LEGO Idea reaches 10,000 upvotes in a certain period of time, the project will be submitted to the company for “expert review.”

“When it gets to 10,000 votes, the LEGO group will take a look at your project, and they'll decide if it falls within their brand,” Jackson said. “If they like it enough, then they will adopt the set. They will probably redesign it a little bit, tweak it, and then they’ll release it to the public under the banner ‘LEGO Ideas.’”

As of Tuesday, Jackson’s project has 1,419 supporters on the LEGO website, and he has 493 days to secure the remaining 8,581 votes.

Most of the children who came to the library for the challenge on Tuesday were already hardcore LEGO maniacs.

“I just decided to come because I'm really interested in LEGO,” said Lucius Deslauriers. “I usually like to build my own creations after building the ones that the sets came with, and then taking them apart.”

“I have this whole sunroom that’s filled with LEGOs,” said Maria Shirey, age 11. “I saw this and I thought ... maybe I should do it to build the bridge.”

The library itself purchased all of the supplies necessary for the construction of its own version of the LEGO Brooklyn Bridge replica. While Jackson will take his bridge replica back to New York, the second replica created by the young builders will remain on display at the library.

A replica of the Brooklyn Bridge constructed in LEGO by New York resident Ben Jackson, brought to the South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg on Tuesday, June 18. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
Lucius Deslauriers, left, and Kevin Lesniak get to work on building a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge in LEGO at the South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg on Tuesday, June 18. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
From left, Avelyn Hess, Maria Shirey, LEGO builder Ben Jackson, Kevin Lesniak, and Lucius Deslauriers look over a pile of LEGO bricks they'll use to build a replica of a section of the Brooklyn Bridge at the South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg on Tuesday, June 18. William Pitts/Butler Eagle
From left, Avelyn Hess, Maria Shirey, and LEGO builder Ben Jackson look over a pile of LEGO bricks they'll use to build a replica of a section of the Brooklyn Bridge at the South Butler Community Library in Saxonburg on Tuesday, June 18. William Pitts/Butler Eagle

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