It was a very humid and sunny evening Saturday, June 17th, when a bevy of fashionably-dressed guests began to arrive at our construction site. They were greeted warmly but also gently advised to “watch their step,”as they descended a steep set of concrete stairs that led to a massive and boxy cement and steel-beamed “room.” That certainly doesn’t sound like the beginnings of your typical festive weekend summer gathering; and as it turns out, this event was, in fact, unlike any other. This was a “Topping Out” party to top them all!
So what exactly is a “topping out” party? It began many centuries ago in Scandinavia, at which time, after the construction of new timber buildings, a tree or branch was placed on the pinnacle beam as a symbolic gesture in lieu of the loss of the trees that were cleared from the site. This wonderful and unique tradition spread to England, other parts of Europe and finally America. Additionally, in the U.S., flags are often attached and raised up to the highest beam after it has been “autographed”by the many construction workers who were integral in its establishment.
And so the grand tradition goes… And, while Liberty Hall was the “belle of the ball,” the real shining stars of the evening were the skilled and dedicated construction crew members led by Cecil Brown, President of Construction for the Preservationist’s Guild and Danny Parris, its Construction Manager. We celebrated with fine food and drink presented by Chef Todd Hogan and our gracious restaurant group staff. Local businessman and former CEO of UPS, International and Founders Club member, Ron Wallace presented two flags to be raised: the Bennington Flag and the “Appeal to Heaven” flag. All was silent as as everyone watched with great pride and anticipation, as the flags were raised by Mayor David Belle Isle and Fulton County Commissioner, Bob Ellis. And then at last, we toasted to the long-awaited fruition of a dream realized, over a decade in the making. As guests enjoyed the convivial and festive atmosphere, they were also invited to add their signatures to the final construction beam as well as any sentiments they wished to express.
But the symbolism woven throughout the evening didn’t end there. Liberty Hall, itself, was designed with precise specifications derived from important dates in our republic’s history. For example, the length of the building is 76 feet, representing our country’s Declaration of Independence (1776). The depth measures 87 feet which is when the Constitutional Convention (1787) was held in Philadelphia. And finally, the height, from the cellar floor, which comes in at 88 feet is representative of the year (1788) that George Washington was elected to his first term as our first president.
The celebration and observance of historical traditions, such as Saturday night’s Topping Out Party, is a significant part of what we love to do at the American History Guild and Founders Club. This marvelous event was certain to be the first of many wonderful gatherings and revelries.