Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tarleton Thursdays: Did You Know?

A "Topping Out" Ceremony

We all received the e-mail invitation to the new Nursing building's "topping out" ceremony from Dr. James Pierce this week. He explained that a "topping out" ceremony signifies that the last beam has been placed on the top of a building. The ceremony usually includes attaching an evergreen tree and an American flag to the last piece of metal.

The photo above shows the November 14, 1993 "topping out" ceremony for the Thompson Student Center. Shown are employees of H.A. Lott, Inc., the builders of the new building. The ironworkers are the first workers to reach the top of a building. Although no two topping out ceremonies are the same, there is usually the tree, the flag, a ceremonial signing of the final beam, and a party! I think the sign above shows that the Lott construction folks enjoyed celebrating, so I feel sure they had a party!

The "topping out" ceremony has old Northern European roots. There are variations as to what the evergreen tree symbolizes. Some say it symbolizes that the job went up without a loss of life, others say it is a good luck charm for the future occupants, and for some it signifies "we did it." All three are worth celebrating! This practice is still carried out in Europe. I saw a "topped out" building on a trip to Switzerland in 1995, complete with the evergreen Christmas tree!

In keeping with such an old tradition, be sure to attend the "topping out" ceremony for our new Nursing building Friday February 26, 2010 at 11 am!


Anonymous said...

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Kim said...

Great information. I didn't know that it what it meant. I thought it might have something to do with hats!

Cathy W. said...

Glad you posted about the topping out ceremony. It's an interesting tradition. More information is available at Plus, you can locate a longer explanation in the JSTOR database: "The 'Topping out' Traditions of the High-Steel Ironworkers" by John V. Robinson
Western Folklore, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 243-262

Cathy W. said...

Hit publish too soon :-(

The other site is "History of the 'Topping Out' Ceremony" by the Columbia University School of Social Work.