a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

An evergreen rises in the Mon Valley

An ironworker waits to position into place the heavily-decorated last roof truss atop a new $54 convocation center under construction at California University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Scott Beveridge/Observer-Reporter

It turns out the Christmas tree that often sits atop a new building under construction has nothing to do with a religious holiday Christians celebrate each December.

The placement by ironworkers of an evergreen tree on such a building involves an ancient Scandinavian custom of builders displaying a tree sprig on a roof during construction to appease the gods for destroying a forest for a new building.

This is a story told today by Cliff Rowe, chief executive officer of PJ Dick Inc. of Pittsburgh, which is building a $54 million convocation center at California University of Pennsylvania. It's contractors also attached to the last truss set into place today a new broom to represent a clean sweep and a U.S.  flag as a show of patriotism.

The university added to the display a cap and gown, a man's shirt and tie and sports jerseys to the 198-foot-wide truss. The items represent academic achievement, executives who will rent the convention space and Cal U. sporting teams that will use the 6,000-seat gymnasium, respectively.

It appears to be a smart move by Cal U. to construct the largest building of its kind between Pittsburgh and Morgantown, W.Va.

The larger businesses and charities in Cal U. territory have always needed to rent party rooms in Pittsburgh for big fancy galas, and local executives who attend them typically have complained about spending their money away of the Mon Valley or Washington County. When this building opens in 2011, it will give these organizations the right-sized space to spend big bucks closer to home.

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