‘Topping Out’ Ceremony Celebrates Great Circle’s St. Louis Expansion

February 10, 2017

The “topping out” ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the construction industry, and Great Circle hosted one on our St. Louis campus recently. The ceremony marked completion of the structural framing of Great Circle’s new Community Impact Center and Field House. It’s a multi-use building that’s part of a $21.5 million improvement project to transform our St. Louis campus into a regional engagement center where families and individuals can access behavioral health services and support when it’s most needed.

Immigrants brought the topping out custom to America centuries ago, but its roots are in an 8th century Scandinavian tradition. A building’s framing was completed when the last and highest beam was hoisted into place. Workers would adorn one end of that beam with grain sheaves to celebrate. As the tradition spread across Europe, an evergreen tree replaced the sheaves. An alternate version of the ceremony comes from the Native American culture, which believes that no structure should be taller than a tree. So by affixing the tree to the highest beam, the forest spirits could be appeased. In the U.S., ironworkers added an American flag to the opposite end of the beam as a patriotic symbol.

Today, the topping out ceremony is a time to congratulate workers for completing the building’s strong, structural framework, and highlight the benefits the new building will bring to the community. Often, workers and the building’s owners sign the beam before its placement.

Children who receive our services played a significant part of Great Circle’s ceremony on Feb. 10, 2017 – signing a celebratory song and affixing brightly colored stickers they had decorated alongside the many signatures. Also on hand were Steve Jones and Nina Orthwein Durham, trustees of the William R. Orthwein, Jr. & Laura Rand Orthwein Foundation, which provided significant funding for the building.

The Community Impact Center and Field House provides expanded space for community-wide programming, additional family resources and staffing needs, along with expanded recreational space for team sports and individualized activities, and is specially designed for youth with special needs. Its funded through Great Circle’s current $21.5 million capital campaign, called the “Campaign for the Path Ahead.” The campaign already has raised more than $20 million from a variety of corporate, foundation and individual donors, and has completed an expansion of our St. Louis school and made other campus renovations and improvements.

To learn more about the Campaign for the Path Ahead or to make a donation, visit www.greatcircle.org/campaignforthepathahead.