Fixit: The significance of pine trees atop construction

  • March 14, 1998 - 10:00 PM

QWhy do they put pine trees on top of buildings under construction?

AThe trees are known as topping trees. They celebrate completion of the skeleton of a building structure. If the building is a skyscraper, the evergreen is attached to the top beam as it is hoisted, a signal that the building has reached its final height.

For some builders, the evergreen symbolizes that no one in the construction crew died, for others the tree stands as a talisman for good luck and prosperity for the future occupants of the building.

Like many rituals, topping out celebrations stem from ancient superstitions.

Many cultures of old feared that evil spirits occupied new structures.

The Romans marked the completion of the Pons Sublicius over the Tiber River in 621 B.C. by throwing some humans into the river as a sacrifice to the gods.

Well into the Middle Ages, priests and rabbis performed special blessings on most new homes and public buildings. Some religious groups continue to conduct such rites.

The first evidence of trees being hoisted atop buildings was in 700 A.D in Scandinavia when such an act signaled that a completion party was about to begin. Scandinavian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, had his protagonist in "The Master Builder" meet his doom by falling while placing a topping-off wreath on one of his new buildings.

-- From ''Why Clocks Run Clockwise and Other Imponderables,'' by David Feldman

No tax break for father  

QI am a divorced father with three children. My ex-wife was given custody of the children. I pay her child support but she also claims the children as dependents. Isn't there a way for me to claim child support on my taxes to get some break at tax time.

ANo. Child support payments aren't deductible and cannot appear on your tax return.

-- Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants

Moving a piano  

QAn upright piano was left in our basement by the previous owner. We do not want it there but have no idea how to get it out. It's no longer possible to remove the steps, as was done when it was moved down there. Who should we contact for help?

AStart with piano moving experts. Check in the Yellow Pages under Piano and Organ Moving. Call and ask if they can remove your piano from the basement, and if not, if they will recommend someone who can.

Another possible direction is to contact piano tuners or restorers and ask if they are interested in dismantling it and for reuse of parts.

    -- Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 673-9033, or e-mail Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies. Fixit appears every day except Friday.

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