Baltimore's only Art Deco skyscraper came to life with a burst of color last night to the delight of hundreds who gathered in Hopkins Plaza to witness a long-awaited light show.
The 34-story building at 10 Light St. changed colors from gold to blue to red to green and back to gold again, as part of a synchronized spectacle mounted by NationsBank Corp.
The North Carolina-based lending institution has spent close to $1 million since April to restore the building after its acquisition last year of Maryland National Bank, the previous lead tenant.
Last night's event was held to "rename, rededicate and relight" the building formally as part of the conversion of all Maryland National properties to NationsBank.
It culminated with the lighting of the recently regilded crown as it will be seen from now on, bathed in white light from the mansard roof down to the terra cotta setbacks 10 stories below.
"That was better than Pink Floyd," said Dave Desmarais, a downtown businessman who watched the show. "I think this really highlights a Baltimore landmark. It's great for the city."
Don Bromer, a city retailer, agreed.
"It's wonderful," he said. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."
The new name for 10 Light St., The NationsBank Building, is the fifth in the history of the 65-year-old tower. Others were: Baltimore Trust Building, 1929 to 1942; the O'Sullivan Building, 1942 to 1949; Mathieson Building, 1949 to 1962; and Maryland National Bank Building, 1962 to 1994.
The tower is the latest of several to receive a new lighting treatment as part of a campaign to "Brighten Baltimore." Others include the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. building; 100 E. Pratt St., and the Billings Building at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The NationsBank tower's lighting was created by New York consultant Douglas Leigh, who also illuminated the Empire State Building and other landmarks.
The lighting ceremony started with a laser show in which changing images were projected on the side of the building, as if it were a giant movie screen. They depicted Maryland symbols ranging from the outline of Baltimore's skyline to objects such as a crab, a clipper ship and the state flag.
As part of the show, the top of the building also changed colors, in time with music played on loudspeakers in the plaza. However, the building is not equipped to change color on a nightly basis, according to Paul Wolman, head of P. W. Feats, the event planner.
Mr. Wolman said it was a miracle the event went on at all, given the weather conditions earlier in the day. The storm delayed the event for 30 minutes.
He said his crews had to double-check much of the temporary lighting after a midafternoon storm swept through the area.
He added the bank was fortunate that the tower no longer had its giant letters, which changed to forecast the weather. As part of the tower's restoration, NationsBank removed the four sets of "mn" letters that were installed in the 1970s by Maryland National Bank.
"If we still had the weather barometer, we really would have been in trouble," Mr. Wolman quipped. "We never would have gone ahead with it."