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A Topping Out Tree Collection
Posted by Tasha Weiss on August 22, 2012 at 4:16 PM.

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Editor’s note: One of our readers, Jonathan Hamann, recently sent us his interesting take on Topping Out ceremonies:

For the last 10 years or so, every time I attend the topping out ceremony for one of my projects, I break off a twig from the topping out tree as a souvenir. I now have a sizable collection of these branches hanging in my office. People usually give me a look like I’m crazy as I snap off the branch onsite, but when I tell them what I’m doing, they usually like the idea. People who visit my office typically enjoy it as well.

(Click on the thumbnail images for an enlarged view.)

On a related note, at a project we recently completed here in Augusta, Maine, for the Maine Genertopping-out-collection_2.jpgal Medical Center, the Topping Out tree was dug up from the project site, rode atop the signed beam in the ceremony, and was then re-planted onsite. As we stress the importance of recycling on all of our projects, I think it is only fitting that the topping out tree be treated with the same mindset. All too often I have returned to a site a week after the topping out ceremony to see the tree still tied to the beam, dead and shriveled up. If someone took the time to purchase a new tree, why not plant it? Even in urban areas, I’m sure a local park would love to have a new tree. I hope more people make this effort on future projects.

– Jonathan Hamann, senior project manager, Cives Steel Company, New England Division (an AISC member/AISC certified fabricator)

A video and photos of the topping out ceremony for the Maine General Medical Center are available on the Kennebec Journal website.

Ever wonder where the “topping out” tradition came from? You can read about the origins of the practice of topping out–placing the last piece of structural steel along with a Christmas tree and often an American flag–in the pages of MSC. In the August 1995 issue editor Scott Melnick posed the question in his editorial, and published a distillation of the responses in the October 1995 issue.


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