On Friday, Oct. 7, Seattle Children’s staff, board members and donors, along with members of Sellen Construction, Ironworkers Local 86 and The Erection Company (TEC), took time out their busy days to pause and celebrate the installation of one of the final steel beams that form the framework of the Building Hope expansion.

Adam Jones, a long-time supporter and advocate for Children’s who works for TEC, explained the history and tradition behind the “topping out” ceremony, one of the construction industry’s oldest traditions.

The tree, beam and flag, shown in the photo on the right. represent a tradition that goes back many years to Europe when trees were revered because people were dependent on them for their survival.

When trees were used to construct homes, people would ask the forest permission to use its trees before cutting them down. When a house was complete, the uppermost leafy branch of the tree was set on top of the roof so that the tree spirit would not be left homeless. The gesture was to convince the tree of the sincere appreciation of those who built the home.

The custom of placing a tree on a completed structure began with immigrants who came to the United States, and has since become an integral part of American culture. Today the custom is continued most frequently on steel structures. An evergreen tree and a flag are attached to the last piece of steel before it is hoisted into position.

Since the beam that was raised during the Oct. 7 ceremony is not the uppermost beam on the new structure, the tree and flag have not yet been raised. That will happen sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Media coverage of the event is available below:


Komo 4

Daily Journal of Commerce


Q 13 Fox News

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Sellen Construction

Tim McKey

Project Superintendent