Ironworkers Local 752 Celebrates “Topping Out” in Halifax — With a Christmas Tree

Nova Scotia’s Ironworkers Local 752 found themselves in the spotlight in February when they installed an evergreen tree on Halifax’s Macdonald Bridge, confusing drivers below.

Puzzled passerby may have thought the appearance of a Christmas tree was nothing more than a prank, but the tree had a special purpose: it was a part of Local 752’s topping out ceremony, marking the final segment of the nearly two-year redecking project for the city’s 61-year-old suspension bridge.

Practiced for more than a century, topping out celebrations are older than the bridge itself, and are familiar to any Ironworker who’s worked on projects of notable length, or significance. And this – the Big Lift project – fits both criteria.

It’s said that topping out ceremonies originated from Scandinavian practices where a tree placed on top of a new building signified a peace offering to the tree-dwelling spirits who were disturbed during construction.

Local 752 has handled the majority of the work on the Macdonald Bridge project, which required the replacement of its 1.3-kilometre length. It was a feat of coordination, as the bridge remained in use during construction


Work was done on weekday nights and, for the majority of the project, on weekends as well. The innovative process allowed the entire bridge to be replaced while it continued to shuttle thousands of people between Halifax and Dartmouth.

Alison MacDonald of Halifax Harbour Bridges told that “people have described this as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of project … It’s an engineering feat, no doubt about it. We are essentially taking the bridge apart every weekend and then putting it back together for people to drive over the next morning.”

Congratulations to Ironworkers Local 752 on a job well done!