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McKay Tower

About this Stop

Though originally only two stories tall when it was built in 1890, McKay Tower became Grand Rapids' first skyscraper when it was expanded in 1927. It is a cornerstone of Monroe Center, the defacto center of town, on a once-popular streetcar line.

Some facts

  • Monroe Center, which runs from Division Ave. to Pearl St. was originally Monroe Street, named for President James Monroe.
  • During bad weather in the early days of the city, Monroe Street was often a heavy, wet bed of clay, and the only sidewalks were wooden planks that individual merchants placed in front of their stores.
  • Cobblestones were used to pave Monroe St. when the first brick sewer was laid in 1855. Previously drainage was limited to wooden sewer pipes or open ditches.
  • The 9 foot tall bronze statue in front of McKay Tower honors local resident, Arthur H. Vandenberg, senator from Michigan from 1928-1951, who was a key player in the forming of the United Nations



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