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The Topping Out Tradition
Posted by Tom Klemens on December 9, 2010 at 9:19 AM.

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 Modern Steel Construction. 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.


Until recently the only way to read either of those 1995 items was to find a printed copy of the magazine. However, earlier this year all the early editions of MSC (1961-1995) were scanned and posted on the MSC website at


There is a small catch. Each of the scanned issues is a single PDF file. So to read the August 1995 editorial, for example, you need to scroll to page 6 of the document. The October article begins on page 36 (which in PDF-ese is 38).


An updated version of the topping out tradition article was published in the December 2000 MSC, this time with more photos. That article can be accessed directly by clicking here.


360state_150p.jpgHave you ever seen a Topping Out? You can see a photo of last January’s traditional signing of the beam for topping out the 360 State Street building in New Haven, Conn., here. And you can watch a 1-minute video of the November 4 topping out at St. Thomas University’s Anderson Student Center in St. Paul, Minn., on the school’s website by clicking here (scroll down to the second image).

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