History

A look at downtown Grand Rapids’ premiere historic high-rise

Since its inception as the Wonderly Building in 1914, the historic McKay Tower has experienced several noteworthy moments – as has the city it centers – so enjoy a glance at the past with a timeline of memorable moments.

Click on the year above to learn what was happening at or around McKay Tower during that time.

1826

Louis Campau established a trading post in the downtown area.1

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1833

Joel Guild purchased the building now known as McKay Tower location for exactly $45.2

Building owner Joel Guild built the first frame house in Grand Rapids on the McKay Tower site. It became the center of activities.2

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Joel Guild

1834

First township election held at Joel Guild’s home, which was built on the site that McKay Tower occupies today.2

First white marriage in Grand Rapids area between Harriet Guild, oldest daughter of building owner Joel Guild, and Barney Burton.2

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1865

The National City bank began business, becoming the second banking institution in the city, growing to become the leading banking institution in Western Michigan.2

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1914

Four-story Wonderly Building property acquired by City Banks when the decision was made to unite National City and The City Trust & Savings banks’ in one large building facing Campau Square.2

The Grand Rapids National City Bank added on to complete the four stories of the bank building.3

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McKay Tower

1925-1926

Next 12 stories were added, completing this 16-story building.2

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1940s

Last two stories added made the building an 18-story skyscraper; the first of its kind in Grand Rapids.

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McKay Tower

1942

Self-made millionaire, Frank D. McKay, purchased the skyscraper from Grand Rapids National Bank and promptly names the building after himself.4

Building owner Frank McKay wills the 145,000-square-foot building to the University of Michigan upon his death.4

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1945

Urban legend has it that McKay Tower was possibly the spot where a high-profile murder plot was hatched.3

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Mid-1980s

McKay Tower’s roof served as a release site in a University of Minnesota re-population program for peregrine falcons.3

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1983

Amway Grand Tower Plaza was completed, knocking the 227 ft. tall McKay Tower out of its position of tallest building between Detroit and Chicago.3

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2000

University of Michigan sold the historical tower.

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2006

Building is purchased by Mark Roller, a Spring Lake developer and managed by Fusion Properties of Grand Rapids.

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2012

Steadfast Property Holdings LLC purchased McKay Tower and remains current owners.

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2013

Building owners Steadfast Property Holdings announces intentions to completely renovate the interior and exterior of the building; effort includes creating residential apartments on top floors and creating the Ballroom at McKay in the former 2nd floor bank space.

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1. The Grand Rapids Historical Society

2. The Grand Rapids Herald (October 3, 1926)

3. Does downtown Grand Rapids tower have a treacherous past?

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