Dome Light

The iconic dome high above McKay Tower has a rich past – when officials with the Grand Rapids National Bank (GRNB) first installed the light, they had great hopes and dreams beyond just gracing the night sky with yet another city light.

Their hope was that this dome would lead the world to Grand Rapids, advertising it as a “beacon of progress.” This beacon would tell the traveler by rail, by road or by air that the western metropolis of Michigan extends a cordial welcome.

dome light featured image
Dome 1930

History of the Dome

In an April 1930 edition of the Grand Rapids Herald, an unnamed journalist wrote:

“Visible for approximately 75 miles, a great dome of red light, probably the largest of its kind in the United States, attracted the attention of thousands of people last night [April 19, 1930] when on the throwing of a switch it blazed forth atop the Grand Rapids National Bank building, the tallest structure in the city.”

For a more detailed history of the dome light, take a look below.

When first activated, the dome held 516 feet of 15-millimeter glass tubing filled with neon gas and weighed 5,450 pounds.

The dome is 25 feet high, not including the 10 feet of superstructure supporting the lighted portion.

The dome measures approximately 78 feet in circumference at its base (25 feet in diameter).

In 1930, the light initially cost $18,000 to install and was projected to cost $55 per month to operate.


The Dome Evolves

In 2013, the former owner of McKay Tower sought to replace the existing bulbs with roughly 1,200 small LEDs capable of glowing in a variety of colors and patterns as well as producing multiple color-changing effects and animated images.

The new system was first activated on Aug. 10, 2013, when a valentine heart scrolled around the dome to celebrate the first wedding reception in the newly remodeled ballroom that evening.

Request Dome Color Change

Multicolored Dome light

Lighting the Way for Generations to Come

This iconic and historical dome continues to light up the Grand Rapids night sky, changing colors and patterns to collectively guide West Michiganders in causes to rally behind as well as to celebrate the holidays and changing seasons.

Some of the foundations and charities that regularly reach out to McKay Tower to help support their causes are:

  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

  • Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls (MMIW)

  • Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day

  • Those impacted by Native American boarding schools

  • National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month

We are proud of McKay Tower’s dome and its celebrated history. We are honored to be stewards of this historical landmark and pledge that it will continue to light up the Grand Rapids skyline, leading the way for generations to come.