Russ Webber’s towering accomplishment

Russell Webber with his Eiffel Tower model in Norwood – Les Orsini photo

NORWOOD — Someone viewing Russell Webber’s front lawn for the first time might think he had crossed the fine line between reality and fantasy, fact and. fiction, into another land.

But a second look would assure him that what he sees is real and the place is still Nahatan Street, Norwood, not Paris.

The potential cause of confusion is Webber’s 12-foot, wrought-iron, built-to-scale model of the Eiffel Tower. It is the sort of thing that demands a double-take.

“It’s a conversation piece,” Webber says. “It’s like a lighthouse at sea. When people drive by, the first thing they see is the Eiffel Tower.”

Like the French steel giant built for the Paris exhibition in 1889, Webber’s tower has passed the test of time. For the last 15 years, it has stood in a corner of his yard, refusing to crumble to wind, snow, rain, and vandalism.

But there are a few reminders of vandalism. Some of the iron cross pieces are bent or missing, the result of mischievous kids toppling the tower on a few occasions. The spire on top also is missing, notes Webber.

The tower also reflects a bit of his personal touch. Clinging to the iron framework are three decorative butterflies. And, unlike its 1,058-foot-high forerunner, Webber’s wonder is portable. St. Catherine’s Church borrowed it for a performance of a French choir about five years ago.

A few years earlier, thieves spirited away the tower — a fact which Webber did not note until three days later. He and a friend “were discussing yard work and I asked him how he liked my Eiffel Tower,” Webber says. “He said, ‘What Eiffel Tower?’ It was gone.”

He called the police, who discovered it had been on a Westwood lawn for three days. “When he went to pick it up, the Westwood police thought he was stealing it,” says Webber’s wife, Florence.

The tower initially belonged to the Reardon & Carducci construction company, which had used it for a church display, Webber says. The company gave the tower to Webber after an employee noticed him admiring it.

Webber’s homestead is dotted with odds and ends like the iron Eiffel that have caught his fancy: an old water pump, a flower wagon, an outdoor statue display case, urns, a U.S. Marine recruiting sign, a cast-iron eagle, and a Marine Corps insignia.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a collector,” he protests gently. “But if I see something I like …I bring it home.”

He estimates 90 percent of the objects he has gathered come from the dump.

The U.S. Marine Corps memorabilia gives him great pride because he is a former leatherneck who took part in the invasions of Guadalcanal and Peleliu Island during World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart after suffering a shrapnel wound in his left ankle.

But more than anything else, it. is the Eiffel Tower — a touch of France in Norwood — that marks the Webber yard from others in town.

“I’d love to go to France and I know I never will. That’s as close as I’ll get,” said the Dedham-born Florence Webber, pointing to the tower. Her husband, a lifelong Norwood resident, apparently knows a good thing when has one. He refused to sell the tower to a man who wanted it for his wife, a French teacher.

THE DAILY TRANSCRIPT Wednesday, August 28, 1985

By Leslie Orsini- Staff Writer