By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The weather was perfect – warm sun and no wind or rain – at the construction site of the new Shrewsbury Public Library for the “topping off” ceremony June 25. Staff members, volunteers and donors signed their names or messages to the final beam before it was hoisted into place. Laurie Hogan, chair of the Library Trustees wrote in bold letters, “Thanks to the Shrewsbury voters.” One end of the beam sported a green pine tree and on the other end, an American flag.
The practice of “topping off” (also known as “topping out”) a new building has northern European origins when a small tree was nailed to a new building to mollify tree-dwelling spirits displaced during the timber frame construction. The custom spread to England and then to the United States and continues to this day. A small tree or leafy branch is placed on the topmost beam, often with flags and streamers tied to it. Fontaine Brothers, Inc., the construction manager for the project, elected to follow this ancient tradition.
Paul Queeney, the project manager for PMA Consultants who is overseeing the construction, said, “The project is on schedule and on budget. We have such a great professional collaborative relationship with all involved. I’ve been on design projects for over 30 years, and this library is one of the most significant jobs in my career. We expect a
successful completion with the library reopening in the early fall of 2016.”
The third major partner is the local Worcester architectural firm of Lamoureaux & Pagano.
“Today is an example of the wonderful, visible support the people of Shrewsbury have for their library,” Library Director Ellen Dolan said. We’ve felt it all along and now that we can see the steel coming out of the ground and completed adds to the excitement. When I look at the building, I see a library that the people of this community will be proud of.”
Also on hand for the brief ceremony was Matt Hogan, co-chair of the Building Campaign.
“With the exciting topping off ceremony today,” he said, “we embark on the public phase to our fundraising. During the quiet phase, we have raised $1.25 million. As our capital campaign becomes more visible, and as the physical structure of the new library emerges, we look forward to widespread support from our community.”
He informed the crowd, “If you haven’t reached out to us yet, now is the time for you to reach out with your support.”
According to co-chair Mary Casey, the foundation has pledged to raise $1.75 million, so has another $500,000 to go. The mission is to meet the commitment to the town by raising private funds from individuals, families, grants, foundations, businesses and civic organizations to support the renovation and additions to the library.