Topping Off ceremony takes place for the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing

July 20, 2014
Ironworkers Jason Pisano, left, and Mike McCanney of R.C. Fabricators of Wilmington hoist an uppermost steel beam into place at the “Topping Off” Ceremony for the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing July 12. SOURCE SUBMITTED

Beebe Healthcare, the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing, Beebe Medical Foundation, and Nason Construction representatives together took part in a milestone “Topping Off” ceremony July 12 for the school of nursing’s expansion project.

A Topping Off ceremony is a cherished tradition of ironworkers to signify that the skeleton of a building or bridge has been completed and that the building has reached its height.

A small crowd watched as ironworkers Jason Pisano and Mike McCanney, of R.C. Fabricators of Wilmington, hoisted an uppermost steel beam into place. A Christmas tree and an American flag stood on the beam.

Attaching a Christmas tree on top of a beam during a Topping Off ceremony, whether the building is made of wood or steel, is a tradition that possibly dates back to 700 A.D. in Scandinavia. According to folklore, this practice was done for such reasons as good luck, to bless a building, or, in the case of wooden buildings of historic times, to honor the tree spirits or to appease them for killing trees. Today, it is considered both the celebration of a construction milestone and a blessing to the building, its future inhabitants, and to all involved in the construction process.

Ironworkers in the United States have been hanging an American flag atop a building’s framework for decades. According to an article published in Modern Steel Construction magazine, the flag represents the ironworkers’ loyalty to flag and nation.

The colorful beach chair and umbrella that stood atop the beam of the Margaret H. Rollins School of Nursing that day was unique to the building, explained Matt Thrower, the project executive with general contractor, Nason Construction, “The ironworkers like to do something special for each building, and since the school is so close to the shore, they thought that the beach chair and umbrella would represent that relationship,” he said.

The $10 million construction project, which was officially kicked off in December 2013, is scheduled for completion in early 2015. It will double the capacity of the school and includes replacing the 50-year-old dormitory with a new three-story, 18,000-square-foot building that will contain new, modern classrooms and clinical laboratories.

A new 10,000-square-foot wing will house a medium classroom, a student lounge and faculty offices. One portion of the existing school will be remodeled to include an expanded library and computer lab, seminar rooms and administrative offices. Upon completion, the expansion project will enable the facility to double the number of students it can accommodate each year from 30 to 60 students.

Beebe Healthcare is a not-for-profit community healthcare system with a charitable mission to encourage healthy living, prevent illness, and restore optimal health for the people residing, working, or visiting in the communities we serve. It offers services throughout Southern Delaware including a 210-licensed-bed hospital, a cancer center, and outpatient facilities at multiple sites providing lab, imaging, physical rehab services and walk-in care. For more information, go to