Towrs

The John Hancock Center

875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Scroll for more pictures

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
This image is available as a poster, print, and digital download.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation. Unauthorized copying prohibited.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation. Unauthorized copying prohibited.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation.
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation
Click here to license this image for your business.
Click to buy prints for your home or office.

Location

Address

875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, United States 60611

Bordering Streets

East Delaware Place
North Seneca Street
East Chestnut Street
North Michigan Avenue

Neighborhood

Gold Coast Chicago

Fast Facts

Also Known As

Big John

Built

1969

Maximum Height

1,506 feet / 459 meters

Stories

100

By Wayne Lorentz

An iconic presence in a city of architectural icons, the John Hancock Center rises boldly from the mid-American prairie to cast a cultural shadow much larger than the one it gets from the sun.

It is a staple of movies, television newscasts, t-shirts, corporate logos and children's drawings. The John Hancock Center is photographed, idealized, and simplified into its various components and used for all things Chicago. It is visible everywhere, both visually, and in branding for all sorts of products and companies in the city and suburbs. But once you get beyond a 50-mile radius, the Hancock's identity begins to fade and become confused with its taller, younger, possibly even better-looking sibling, the Sears Tower.

It's not surprising that the majority of Americans confuse the Hancock Center and the Sears Tower. Both were erected at roughly the same time. Both are black monoliths. And both are located in hard core fly-over territory. In fact, many tourists are surprised to learn that Chicago has not one, but four supertowers with a fifth under construction. When it comes to scraping the sky, New York and Los Angeles simply can't compete with Chicago.

In its simplest form, the John Hancock Center is four vertical beams connected by a series of cross braces forming a square tube. It's perfectly comprehensible to even the most casual observer and the reason you can sometimes see it scrawled on sidewalks in childrens' chalk doodles. A simple rectangle filled with X's topped by two sticks representing the building's antennae is an almost universal symbol of Chicago for millions of people.

More importantly, the steel exoskeleton made construction cheaper. According to the AIA Guide to Chicago, the 100- story John Hancock Center was erected for about what it cost to build a contemporary 45-story office building.

The John Hancock Center doesn't fuss with setbacks like other tall structures. Its broad shoulders carry its massive girth all the way to the top. But that's not to say it's a box. The tower tapers as it gets higher, an unnecessary use of forced perspective in a skyscraper that is already one of the biggest in the world. The effect is that the glass and steel obelisk appears even taller than it really is.

The construction of the Hancock Center was a game-changer for Chicago's North Side. Before 1969, North Michigan Avenue was lined with fairly uniform and elegant mid- and low-rise buildings that some compared to the look and feel of Paris. When the John Hancock Center came online, it ushered in a wave of skyscraper building along the Magnificent Mile that transformed it into a modern canyon of commerce.

There was originally supposed to be two skyscrapers here, which is why it is called John Hancock Center. The second tower would gave been East of the first, but the developers could not wrest the land at 195 East Delaware Place away from the very private Casino Club. The developers sent a letter about the second tower to then-club president Doris Winterbotham. She ignored the letter and the development went forward with only one tower. The letter in question was found in Winterbotham's papers after she died, and was later publicized by the Chicago Tribune.

Raw Data

Construction Start

1965

Construction End

1969

Renovated

• 1994-1995: Lower level and garden plaza renovated by Hiltscher Shapiro

Cost

$95,000,000

By The Numbers

• 2,800,000 square: Amount of space in the building.
• 897,000 square feet: Office space
• 171,800 square feet: Retail space
• 47,000 square feet: The size of this tower at its base.
• 46,000 tons: Amount of steel used.
• 17,400 square feet: Size of the observation level.
• 17,000 square feet: The size of this tower at its roof.
• 1,632: Stairs from the lobby to the observation deck.
• 1,000 feet: Height of the observation level above the street below.
• 750: Parking spaces
• 555: Number of light tubes along the 99th floor windows.
• 50 hours: The amount of time it takes to place new colored sleeves over all of the light tubes.
• 42: Elevators

Size[Explanation ♐]

Maximum Height: 1,506 feet / 459 meters
Mechanical Height: 1,127 feet / 344 meters
Roof Height: 1,106 feet / 337 meters

Floors[Explanation ♐]

100 stories above grade
One story below grade

Stacking Diagram

98-100
97
95-96
94
93
66-92
65
45-64
44
42-43
13-41
3-12
1-2
B1

Noteworthy Facts

• Commercial address: 875 North Michigan Avenue
• Residential address: 175 East Delaware Place
• This was formerly the location of a surface parking lot.
• At the time of its completion, this was the tallest building in Chicago, surpassing the Daley Center.
• There is a public observation deck on the 94th floor.
• The restaurant on the 95th floor of this building was formerly called The 95th. It is now The Signature Room.
• One section of the observation deck is open to the outside, but is still screened in.
• 47 floors of the Hancock Center are residential. It is like a city unto itself, and people do not have to leave the building. The people who live there have their own post office, supermarket, shops, full-sized swimming pool, ibrary, gym, and other amenities.
• Because the building is tapered, homes on different levels have different amounts of space even if they have the same floorplan.
• The most coveted views are to the North, overlooking Lincoln Park, and where there is less noise from the nearby fire station and hospitals to the south. The second-most popular view is to the West over the suburbs and spectacular sunsets, followed by the South view of the city.
• East views are least popular, especially on higher floors, because the blue lake melds with the blue sky and there's not much to see other than blue.
• Some southern views are problematic because they overlook the roof of Water Tower Place. Residents complain that it's like having a parking lot outside their windows.
• At the time it was completed, this building had 720 apartments. That number has been reduced as various units were combined to make larger homes.
• The residential portion of the building has three elevator banks. One for freight, one for passengers, and one for emergency evacuations.
• Before the 2009 switchover to digital television the Hancock Center's two masts carried the transmitting antennae for ten TV stations and five backup TV transmitters.
• The Eastern mast is the taller of the two. It is 1,503 feet and three inches from the ground to the tip.
• For decades the Signature Room, the restaurant at the top of the Hancock, would keep its wine in a wine cellar -- literally. Even though the restaurant is on the 95th floor, wine was kept in the basement and brought up as needed. All of the wine was moved upstairs around 2000.
• The studios of WLUP Radio are in this building.
• The studios of WUSN Radio are in this building.
• The Hancock elevators are billed as the fastest in America, climbing 95 stories in 40 seconds.
• Famed architect Mies van der Rohe once designed a skyscraper for this plot, but it was never built and today's John Hancock Center took its place.
• The women's bathrooms at the 96th floor bar are routinely named the best in the nation, in no small part because of the view.
• Talk show host Jerry Springer rented a condominium on the 91st floor of this building when his show was filmed in Chicago. His show moved to Connecticut in 2009.
• The restaurant on the 95th floor of this building is where President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle had their first date.
• On a clear day it is possible to see Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.
• The garden plaza in front of the John Hancock Center once had a public ice skating rink.
• Though not visible from the outside, many of the residences in this building have screened-in balconies known as "sky terraces."
• Comedian and actor Chris Farley died in this building. He lived in unit 6002 (60th floor).
• The residential portion of the building is its own election district. People who live here can vote without going below the 44th floor.
• There is a time capsule at the top of the building. Among the items inside is a piece of Paris' Eiffel Tower.
• This building was used in a 1993 Super Bowl commercial for McDonald's.
• This was one of the filming locations for the 2005 movie Stranger Than Fiction.
• When this project was proposed there was fierce opposition because it would increase traffic in the area.
• At the time of its opening, critics panned the design as reminiscent of an oil derrick.
• This building is so tall that according to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling, the temperature at the top of the John Hancock Center is six degrees cooler than air at the base.
• A 20-foot-tall star used to be suspended between the building's antennae during the Christmas season.
• The exterior of the building's 98th floor is lined with 500 eight-foot-tall light panels. Colored tubes are put over them by hand to change the colors.

Your photos of The John Hancock Center


Photograph uploaded by Reilly Tillman

Photograph uploaded by Brent Kampert

Photograph uploaded by J.S.K.

Photograph uploaded by WL

Photograph uploaded by WL

Photograph uploaded by WL

Photograph uploaded by WL

People just like you have uploaded these photos of The John Hancock Center. You can add yours, too!

Photo iconClick here to share your photos

Your Thoughts

special effect
“Truly Chicago's icon. The city wouldn't be the same without it.”
special effect
Andros in Hammond, United States Flag of United States —Saturday, February 20th, 2010 @ 3:01pm
special effect
“Great building, though a little confusing to get around for tourists.”
special effect
Mike in Chicago, United States Flag of United States —Saturday, February 20th, 2010 @ 10:55am

Leave your thoughts, additions, comments, or corrections in the space below. No registration is required, but we do need your name and e-mail address in case we want to follow-up with you about what you write.

Attributes

• skyscraper - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• residential - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• commercial - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• retail - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• restaurant - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• office - See more: (local) (region) (global)
• haunted - See more: (local) (region) (global)

People and Companies

Developer

Jerry Wolman

Architecture Firm

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Architect

Bruce J. Graham
Fazlur R. Khan

Quotations

"It is, without a doubt, the best super-tall tower in town." — Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1996

"The Hancock... looks mighty great from afar, and mighty dorky from the main entrance... Up close, the Hancock is all warts. The south lobby... looks like a Prague train station... The Grand Avenue subway is about as nice and it has gum machines... The north lobby, where people go to live in this thing, is as jolly as a marble-clad boxcar on a siding in Kansas City." — Chicago Tribune, August 28, 1988

Timeline

• 1965: Plans for the John Hancock Center were announced.
• 1969: Construction finished.
• 1972: The Hancock Center was surpassed by the Standard Oil Building as the tallest building in Chicago.
• 1973: The residential portion of this building was converted from apartments to condominiums.
• June, 1988: Plans were announced to replace the sunken plaza in front with a three-story glass-enclosed shopping mall. It was never built.
• November 11, 1981: Stuntman Dan Goodwin climbed the outside of the building. It took him six hours to get to the top.
• May, 1997: The 94th floor observatory reopened after a $2.5 million renovation.
• December 18, 1997: Comedian Chris Farley died in his home on the 60th floor.
• March 9, 2002: Three women were killed when a scaffold broke apart in high winds and rained debris on the street below, crushing two cars.
• August 10, 2006: WLS Television reported the John Hancock Center could be sold.
• 2007: This building was sold for $383 million.
• September 9, 2010: Plans for "Skating in the Sky" were announced -- a 50-foot-long by 20-foot-wide skating rink in the Hancock Observatory 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue. It isn't planned to be ice, but instead a slipper synthetic substance.
• September, 2010: This building was named #1 on Chicago Magazine's list of the Top 40 Buildings in Chicago.
• June, 2013: The office portion of this building and its parking garage were sold. Crain's Chicago Business estimated the sale price was $145 million.

Hauntings?

• This building and others surrounding it were erected at the location of the first City of Chicago cemetery. While all of the graves were supposed to have been moved to the former cemetery in what is now Lincoln Park, according to WTTW television construction in the area still turns up the occasional skeleton.

Previous • Next • Random

← Previous: Pier 1 Imports Building
→ Next: Saint James Cathedral
✈ Random: Sheldon Square

Royalty-free architecture stock photography

Latest Architecture Blog Entries

Gettin' social wid'it:Twitter logo Facebook logo

ATL | Asia | MSP | China | CHI | HOU | LON | LAX | Middle East | Northwest | NYC | PRG | TYO | VIE

Artefaqs logo

About | Contact | © 2017 Artefaqs Corporation | Privacy | Advertise | Sitemap
Towrs is powred by Artefaqs Corporation stock photography. Unauthorized use of photographs from this site will be prosecuted. Artefaqs® and the Artefaqs logo are registered trademarks of Artefaqs Corporation. Towrs™ is a trademark of Artefaqs Corporation. Sammitches is tasty.