Decoding its changing color schemes and the causes it celebrates

The LeVeque Tower is frequently lighted to support various causes. When did all this begin, and what do the colors symbolize? Our iconic original skyscraper, once an aircraft beacon, became more iconic in 1989 when the owners installed floodlights on the highest floors to wash the upper tower in white light during the evenings. Later on, they sent an intrepid contractor up to install theatrical gels that added colored lighting as an option, such as red and green for the holidays. Fast-forward to the recent restoration project. The building's owners wanted to continue the tradition using energy-saving technology instead. The old floodlights were removed and computer-controlled LED lights were installed, ranging from 6-inch spotlights to 3-square-foot boxes. Now a few keystrokes offer 256 million color combinations, with much less outdoor maintenance 40 stories high.

The colored lighting happens about six or eight times each year. Here are some of those occasions for 2018: There's pink for the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation in April and May; rainbow colors for Pride weekend in June; red and blue for the Fourth of July; purple for Purple Heart recognition in August; teal for ovarian cancer awareness in September; and, of course, red and green at the holidays.

I've noticed that the stretch of Gay Street west of Front is named for William A. Lewis. Who is that? At about 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, Terrance Trent, who prosecutors later alleged had a history of angry and aggressive driving, was speeding westbound on East Broad Street in a pickup truck with a flat rear tire, when he ran a red light and broadsided an empty school bus in the intersection of Broad and High streets. The force of the crash pushed the bus sideways, and it struck two pedestrians. One was 21-year-old Stephanie Fibelkorn, an Ohio State University engineering student on her last day as an intern with the city. She died at the scene. Her mentor, William A. Lewis Jr., was 58 years old and was the city's chief mobility engineer. He was severely injured and died 17 days later. Two other people were injured but recovered. Trent, a 63-year-old Whitehall resident, was convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide and vehicular assault and received the maximum 13-year sentence.

Bill Lewis was a Cleveland native who earned degrees in engineering from Purdue University and the University of Florida. After working at ODOT and later at the Florida Department of Transportation, he returned to Columbus and had a long career with the city. He was widely liked and Columbus City Council recently memorialized him by renaming West Gay Street between Front Street and Marconi Boulevard to the William A. Lewis Memorial Thoroughfare, marked by a sign with that name and Lewis's initials, “WAL.”

Jeff Darbee is a preservationist, historian and author in Columbus. Send your questions to, and the answer might appear in a future column.

Sources: Sam Rosenthal, project architect for the LeVeque Tower restoration, Schooley Caldwell Associates; Columbus Dispatch articles and obituary; WBNS-TV website; Jeff Ortega, assistant director, Department of Public Service, city of Columbus