Building tradition: ‘Topping off’ the frame of Bridgeport Bridge | TheUnion.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Building tradition: ‘Topping off’ the frame of Bridgeport Bridge

A softwood bough is attached to the rafter top of the Bridgeport Bridge and baptized with rum.
John Field
A softwood bough is attached to the rafter top of the Bridgeport Bridge and baptized with rum.
John Field

With the structural work on the Bridgeport Bridge now completed, a century-old tradition is to celebrate completion of the timber structure by attaching a softwood bough to the rafter top and baptize the same with rum.

One of the more well known timber traditions involves nailing a bough or small evergreen tree to the highest point of the timber frame.

The ritual serves two purposes: One pays homage to all the trees that went into the construction of the house, and to the many hands that built it. The other symbolizes the establishment of the house’s roots, which will nourish a long and prosperous life.



The young tree is called a “whetting bush,” likely derived from the German tradition of watering it as a sign of the home’s first nourishment.

Ask 10 timber framers about “topping off” the frame and you’ll get 10 slightly different answers. But the common thread is: The whetting (wetting) bush is placed as a symbol of thanksgiving. Some say it gives thanks to the forest for providing timber for a new home. Some say it gives thanks for a safe raising. A few simply say it’s “good luck.”



Once the last timber is raised and pegged, the moment is documented with a photograph. Why? Perhaps because timber framers often feel that the timber frame will never be more beautiful than at that moment (before it is covered by walls and a roof), or perhaps because all present sense that this structure will outlast everyone in the picture.

Source: Save Our Bridge Campaign


Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.

 

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User