A Tree, A Flag and Great Circle Spirit “Top Off” St. Louis Ceremony

Topping Out Ceremony Video

Under a bright blue February sky amid the music and cheers of staff, clients, donors and a proud construction crew, Great Circle celebrated a “topping out ceremony” – the completion of the structural framing of the Community Impact Center and Field House being built on our St. Louis campus. The new multi-use building is part of a $21.5 million improvement project to transform the campus into a regional engagement center where families and individuals can access behavioral health services and support when it’s most needed.

So, what is a topping out and why is it celebrated?

Immigrants brought the custom to America centuries ago. A building’s framing is considered completed when the last and highest beam is hoisted into place. Workers would adorn one end of that beam with grain sheaves to celebrate, and as the tradition spread across Europe, an evergreen tree replaced the sheaves. In the U.S., ironworkers began adding an American flag to the opposite end of the beam, now painted white, as a patriotic symbol to their work.

Today, topping out ceremonies also congratulate workers for safely completing a building’s structural framework, and mark a key milestone to highlight the benefits the new building will bring to the community. Those sentiments are written onto the beam prior to its raising.

Great Circle’s Feb. 10 ceremony kicked off the day prior with beam signing by workers, staff and children. Some affixed brightly colored stickers with classroom signatures to the beam while others spruced up the brief ceremony with a celebratory song. 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.

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

There’s a video of the topping out ceremony on our website – click here to view it. To learn more about the Campaign for the Path Ahead or to make a donation, visit www.greatcircle.org/campaignforthepathahead.