New Jamrich construction reaches ceremonious milestone

Amanda Monthei

At around 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, a steel beam — painted white and autographed by NMU administrators and those managing and working the construction site — was bolted to the frame of the new Jamrich building. It was placed ceremoniously as the final beam of the building’s 136,000 square foot exterior steel frame construction.

A crew member of the new Jamrich project signs his name on the last beam of the frame. Signing the beam is part of the ‘topping-off’ tradition, which is a long-time ironworking custom. (Photo: Amanda Monthei)
A crew member of the new Jamrich project signs his name on the last beam of the frame. Signing the beam is part of the ‘topping-off’ tradition, which is a long-time ironworking custom. (Photo: Amanda Monthei)

The single beam had both an American flag and a small evergreen tree poised on it, a tradition that is common at the conclusion of frame construction on large buildings.

“It’s always an evergreen — always a little pine tree — and the flag,” said Cindy Paavola, director of communication and marketing. “They do the pine tree and the flag and that’s been an ironworker tradition across the country for hundreds of years.”

According to the Tommy Pavia, who is general foreman for the ironworkers of the Jamrich project, the tradition is of Scandinavian origin, and was adopted in the U.S. during construction of skyscrapers in New York City in the mid-1800s.

“The evergreen tree stands for longevity of the building — we want it to be strong and last a long time,” he said. “The flag means it’s American made.”

The ceremony was attended by  members from the Engineering and Planning department, namely associate director and associate vice president of the department, Jim Thams and Kathy Richards respectively, as well as many of the workers responsible for the construction of the building.

“(This was) what we call a topping-out party,” said Luke Oberdorfer, an intern for Miron Construction of Negaunee, and an MBA student at NMU. “Next it’s going to be the brick face. We’re trying to get this enclosed before the snow flies.

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“We’re on a good track, we’re going to be putting some windows in next, then sealing up the roof so we’ll be able to get inside.”

Oberdorfer is both a graduate student and a worker on the new Jamrich site, but also did his undergrad in construction management at NMU.

“I can stay parked right here,” he said, pointing to the section of Lot 28 that has been created for employees of the Jamrich site. “And then I can just jump the fence and go to class in the old Jamrich building.”