Chicago, a city on Lake Michigan in Illinois, is considered one of the largest cities in the U.S. Chicago is known for its charming beauty, crazy architecture, and iconic dishes. That place is something that one can’t escape and the overall beauty of the city cannot be compared. Chicago gives rise to dreams that go far beyond one’s imagination. It is filled with loving neighborhoods and buildings that captivate you in a blink. With so many buildings that look straight out of books, one wonders what is the tallest building in Chicago, Illinois.
Chicago is said to be an international hub. It is filled with buildings so tall that even craning your neck won’t do you justice. It is home to Willis Tower, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and many more towers with beautiful architecture and homes and offices that just call you in. Chicago holds a special place in people’s hearts. Chicago holds talent and creativity in its palms.
1. The Willis Tower
The Willis Tower is considered to be the tallest building in Chicago and the 23rd tallest tower in the world. It is also said to be the 3rd tallest tower built in the Western Hemisphere. Nested in the heart of the United States, the Willis Tower is a 110-story and 1,451-foot skyscraper. It was architect Bruce Graham and engineer Fazlur Rehman Khan who drew the plans for the tower and the tower opened in 1973. The tower is said to be the most popular tourist destination in Chicago.
1.1 The History of Willis Tower:
The tower occupies a site bounded by Franklin Street, Jackson Boulevard, Wacker Drive, and Adams Street, and behind this innovative idea was the acceptance of Matthew J. Stacom, who was the Vice President of Sears.
Now the question arises, what is Sears and what role do they play in building Willis Tower?
Sears, Roebuck, and Co. was a department store that occupied an office complex on the West side of Chicago since 1906. The department store had many office complexes in Chicago and was quite famous. As the years went by, the company gained more status and opened more stores. By 1966, the office complexes were inadequate to hold down employees and the work needed to manage all the stores. This prompted them to look at other sites for another office complex. They were given two options out of which they chose the place where Willis Tower was built, then called the Sears Tower. Their idea was to merge all the office complexes into one building, the Sears Tower.
Sears purchased 15 buildings from more than 100 owners and closed down a block of Quincy Street to acquire the loop site for Sears Tower.
1.2 The Construction and Design of Sears Tower:
It was estimated that the tower would need 4.2 million square feet of land split into 70 stories with 60,000 square feet each to make the tower operational.
Sears in their mind wanted to shift its merchandise group into the tower while renting out the remaining space to other people. The top floors were to be given to the executives of the company. This plan raised concerns about the tower’s design which led to an increase in the height of the tower from the already discussed height to meet all the requirements. The firm Saphier, Lerner, and Schindler was contracted to determine Sears’s space and design requirements. This started a year-long process of research into determining how to fit 16 office complexes into one single building.
Sears contracted the diesel construction company as their contractor. Work on the foundation of the building commenced in August 1970 and through many setbacks, the work was finished and made Sears Tower as Chicago’s tallest building in November 1972.
1.3 Change In History:
In 1984, Sears announced that they would renovate the tower to attract tourists on the lower floors, and a visitor building for the Skydeck was constructed. In the renovations, the building’s entrance was to be covered by a four-story glass dome. The first four stories of the tower were converted into a shopping atrium. All the renovations were completed by mid-1985.
After the renovations, by 1988, Sears decided to relocate its office and sell the tower but they couldn’t find a buyer, so instead they decided to refinance the tower by taking loans from Metlife and AEW Capital Management. Metlife was the major mortgage holder and the deal was that the loan would mature in 2005.
In 1994, Metlife and AEW gained ownership of the tower as Sears relocated their office complex. Trizechanh had acquired the holdings of AEW Capital management and they made some successful efforts to attract tourists to the tower. As the currency grew, they couldn’t keep up with major shareholders vacating the tower, so AEW sold its ownership of the tower all to Metlife.
In 2003, Metlife gained sole ownership of the tower and further sold the tower to an investor group. Even after all the ownership changes, the name of the tower wasn’t changed until an
London-based insurance broker, Willis Group Holdings agreed to take a portion of the tower and gained the naming rights of the tower. The tower was officially renamed as the Willis Tower on July 16, 2009.
In March 2015, the tower was yet again sold and was finally purchased by the Blackstone Group and is still in their possession.
On June 22, 1974, the Skydeck was finally opened. The observation deck is located on the tower’s 103rd floor and is considered to be the highest observation deck in the U.S. A backup observation deck was opened on the 99th floor of the tower. Standing on the deck, one can experience a tsunami of emotions and views. Looking over the city of Chicago, one can feel the winds and see how the city flows with the winds. The Skydeck became one of the most famous tourist attractions and in the heart of the U.S. 1,353 feet above ground, the deck became one of the spirit-freeing experiences.
1.5 The Final Willis Tower:
Willis Tower under the ownership of Blackstone Group is now a corporate office building, home to different condos and apartments, and more than 100 companies including private law, insurance offices, etc. The tower now includes some of the most luxurious fine dining experiences one can see in Chicago and the observation deck just blows one away with the mesmerizing sights of the city. Even though multiple changes in ownership, minor to large renovations, attacks, and lawsuits, the tower did not lose its spark and charm and still is the most jaw-dropping sight one can see in Chicago.
2. Visiting Willis Tower:
For your next visit to Willis Tower, here are a few tips to guide you to the best time and details regarding it-
- To catch spectacular views of the city, visit the tower during sunrise or sunset and be 30-40 minutes earlier than the booked time.
- As the ticket timing is limited, make sure to book the tickets in advance.
- The Skydeck is child-friendly and also has the comforts for disabled people.
As the tower holds some of the most exciting dining experiences, don’t forget to experience some while you are visiting.
3. Other Tall Buildings in Chicago:
Even though the Willis Tower is Chicago’s Tallest building, some other towers also hold significance in Chicago. Let’s explore some other experiences the city has to offer:
3.1 Trump International Hotel and Tower:
Trump International Hotel and Tower is said to be the second tallest building in Chicago. It is a 100-story and 1,388-foot building. It is named after Donald Trump and is located in downtown, Illinois. It is a luxurious 5-star hotel with an experience that beholds us from the inside out.
3.2 St. Regis Chicago:
St. Regis Chicago is said to be the third tallest building in Chicago. A 101-story, 1,198-foot skyscraper with an experience so wild that one can never snap out of it. It beholds the sight of the Chicago River from the top and was designed by architect Jeanne Gang.
After learning and reading about what is the tallest building in Chicago, we find a whirlwind of thoughts in our minds. From renovations to renaming, Willis Tower tops it all and gives an intrigue to learn about it more. It is a place filled with mystery and beholds a sight so profound that it creates a spot in the hearts of people. Surpassing different towers that came close but always failed to take the spot, Willis Tower is the tallest and the most mesmerizing sight in Chicago and nothing can change this.
Mahi is an high school student having immense love for writing in various genres. she writes poems and articles with her own thoughts and values her own perspective into things. she has a love for trekking and creating words and poems with different viewpoints.