The Maine State Building and Construction Trades Department posted a video of a “topping off” ceremony by the Ironworkers Local 7. This is the moment when the highest structural element of a building, the final beam, is put in place.
You’ll notice in the video (below), a small pine tree at the top of the beam. The tree tradition was adopted by Norwegian Ironworkers in 1898 as a way to symbolize the workers’ “respect for nature’s contribution to the building process.”
Digging a little deeper, though, you can discover “topping off” tradition that predates steel-frame skyscrapers by about 1200 years.
The earliest references date from around 700 A.D., when Scandinavians topped off construction of new halls with sheathes of grain for Odin’s horse, Slepnir.
In the 2nd video below, Local 7 Business Agent, Shawn Cleary, tells the tale of “topping off” the best.
In these times, we can only assume the bittersweetness of the “topping off” moment, with some of these Ironworkers unsure what job awaits them, and with which brothers they’ll work next.