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Ukiah Valley Medical Center to Reach Highest Point of Construction

Event A modern version of the ancient “topping off” custom will be celebrated at Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) on the construction site of the new emergency department and intensive care unit on Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 2:00 P.M. 

The construction practice of “topping off” a building is believed to have originated in Scandinavia with the installation of the highest wooden beam on top of a structure. The tradition spread throughout Europe and migrated to the United States where it was adopted by ironworkers and observed during the installation of the last beam on top of a skyscraper. 

This tradition, also known as “topping out”, continues today. While the material is no longer iron, steelworkers still celebrate this age-old rite of reaching the highest point in construction. Contractors, sub-contractors, donors and dignitaries will “leave their mark” on the beam that will be signed by all present at the celebration. “This is a big deal for the steelworkers,” said Travis Thompson, project manager, “It is a big milestone. It’s a chance to commemorate their achievements and is the most visible sign of progress on the project so far.” 

The signed beam will be placed on the roof-top helipad, at the building’s highest point. “It is most appropriate to celebrate the placement of this beam on the helipad,” remarked Gwen Matthews UVMC CEO, “Morgan and Pauline Ruddick were among the first donors to contribute to this project and their support was critical to the success of this project. We are most grateful to the Ruddick’s for their sponsorship of the helipad.” 

UVMC employees, physicians and community members raised $4 million in a capital to help fund the new structure located at 275 Hospital Drive in Ukiah. “The total cost of the campus expansion will exceed $42 million and lion’s share will be financed by our corporate sponsor, Adventist Health,” remarked Matthews. 

In accordance with tradition, steelworkers will celebrate the construction milestone by hoisting the signed beam into place with a tree on one end and the American flag on the other. The icons are believed to symbolize new growth and love of country. 

For more information about the expansion project and the Topping Off Celebration, contact Allyne Brown at (707) 463-7623 or