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What’s that pine tree on top of CareSource’s new building?

If you’ve ever driven past the new CareSource building in downtown Dayton, you may have seen a pine tree sitting on the top steel beam.

It’s part of a construction tradition that reportedly dates back to 8th century Scandinavia, with a tree and sometimes a flag placed on the final beam as part of a rite called the topping-off ceremony.

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There are different versions of what the ceremony is supposed to symbolize. Some stories say the root of the ceremony is trying to ward off bad luck from the spirit of trees that were chopped down for the project or to symbolize the “new life” of the new building, but in general the modern day version of the ceremony is for marking the milestone of the completed steel frame.

Shook Construction held a topping off ceremony for  St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital in Youngstown. CONTRIBUTED

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“The main thing is it’s a way of bringing everyone together,” said Rob Lupidi, director of business development at Danis, which is building the CareSource building. “It’s such hard work and so many hands and hundreds of people on the job so it is just nice to stop at landmarks and have everyone be appreciated.”

Lupidi said he’s heard its maybe a way of wishing the building lasts forever or thought of as bad luck if you don’t do a topping off ceremony on a big project, but no one really seems to know exactly why its done.

“There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s just a nice celebration,” he said.

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In the U.S the ceremony also typically involves an American flag flying on the beam along with the tree and sometimes the flag of the steel workers union on the job.

The six-story CareSource Center City that is under construction will be the first newly constructed downtown office project underway since the non-profit — a fast growing Medicaid managed care company — broke ground on its Main Street headquarters in 2007 . The building is being built on the 100 block of East First Street and is scheduled to be complete in 2019.

Chris Freitag, Shook Construction vice president of health care, said the topping off ceremony can be almost like the ground breaking ceremony, with a show of community figures out at the construction site for the occasion.

“For us, it’s attending an event with the owner, our client, and engaging them. I’ve been to some where the mayor is there,” he said.

Prior to the ceremony, the staff at the company moving into the building that’s under construction also typically have chance to sign the final beam before it is placed.

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Freitag said the local iron workers union also has their own flag that can be put on the beam as well, like on a project Shook managed for Mercy Health at St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital in Youngstown. It’s a chance for the trade to celebrate their work on some of these larger projects. 

“It’s kind of a way for iron workers to also just take pride in what they’re doing. For this 14 story building, those iron workers go through a lot to build that steel structure,” he said.

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