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John Hancock Center at 875 North Michigan Avenuemarker in the Gold Coastmarker area of Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker, is a 100-story, 1,127-foot (344 m) tall skyscraper, constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with chief designer and structural engineer Fazlur Khan and Bruce Graham. When completed in 1969, it was the tallest building in the world outside New York Citymarker. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Chicago and the sixth-tallest in the United Statesmarker, after the Willis Towermarker, the Empire State Buildingmarker, the Bank of America Towermarker, the Trump Towermarker, and the Aon Centermarker. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at . The building is home to offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums and contains the highest residences in the world. This skyscraper was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building.

The 95th floor has long been home to a restaurant, the latest tenant being "The Signature Room on the 95th Floor." While patrons dine, they can look out at Chicago and Lake Michiganmarker. The Hancock Center's observation deck facilities (called the Hancock Observatory) compete with the Willis Tower's Skydeck across town. The Hancock Center is in a commercial district, while the Willis Tower is in the financial district. The Hancock Center 94th floor observation deck displays exhibits about the city of Chicago. Maps explain the view in each direction and a special meshed-in area allows the visitors to feel the winds above ground level. The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.


The John Hancock Center was erected on the site of Cap Streeter's 19th century steamboat shanty. The area is called Streetervillemarker after him, and consists of landfill reclaimed from the lake.

Construction of the tower was briefly halted in 1967 due to a credit crunch experienced by the builder, briefly leaving the building in a truncated form approximately 20 stories high. This situation is similar to the one currently being experienced with the construction of Waterview Towermarker.

The building's first resident was Ray Heckla, the original building engineer, responsible for the residential floors from 44-92. Ray and his family moved into a 2 bedroom apartment in April 1969 before the building was completed.

On November 11, 1981, Veterans Day, high-rise firefighting and rescue advocate Dan Goodwin, for the purpose of calling attention to the inability to rescue people trapped in the upper floors of skyscrapers, successfully climbed the outside of the John Hancock Center. Wearing a wetsuit and using a climbing device that enabled him to ascend the I-beams on the building's side, Goodwin battled repeated attempts by the Chicago Fire Department to knock him off. Fire Commissioner William Blair ordered Chicago firemen to stop Goodwin by directing a fully engaged fire hose at him and by blasting fire axes through nearby glass from the inside. Fearing for Goodwin's life, Mayor Jane Byrne intervened and allowed him to continue to the top.

On December 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his apartment on the 60th floor of the John Hancock Center.

On March 9, 2002, part of a swing-stage (hanging scaffold for window washing & exterior repairs) fell 43 stories after being torn loose by wind gusts around 60 mph (100 km/h), crushing several cars and killing three people in two of them. The remaining part of the stage swung back-and-forth in the gusts repeatedly slamming against the building, damaging cladding panels, breaking windows, and sending pieces onto the street below.

On December 10, 2006, the non-residential portion of the building was sold by San Franciscomarker based Shorenstein Properties LLC for $385 million and was purchased by Goldman Sachs. Shorenstein had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.

An annual stair climb race up the 94 floors from the Michigan Avenue level to the observation deck called Hustle up the Hancock is held on the last Sunday of February. The climb benefits the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. The record time as of 2008 is 9 minutes 38 seconds.

On April 16, 2009 at 6:00AM CDT, WYCCmarker-TV transmitting off the John Hancock switched to all-digital broadcasting, becoming Chicago's first television station to stop broadcasting in an analog signal. WCIU-TV is one of only two Chicago market full-power television stations which broadcast from the top of the John Hancock Center. The other is WGBO-DTmarker, while all of the other area stations broadcast from the top of the Sears Towermarker.

Jerry Springer, host of The Jerry Springer Show, continues to maintain his 91st floor residence. Prior to Chris Farley's death, the two lived in adjacent residences.


The John Hancock Center
One of the most famous buildings of the structural expressionist style, the skyscraper's distinctive X-bracing exterior is actually a hint that the structure's skin is indeed part of its 'tubular system'. This idea is one of the architectural techniques the building used to climb to record heights (the tubular system is essentially the spine that helps the building stand upright during wind and earthquake loads). This X-bracing allows for both higher performance from tall structures and the ability to open up the inside floorplan (and usable floor space) if the architect desires. Original features such as the skin have made the John Hancock Center an architectural icon. It was pioneered by Bangladeshi-American structural civil engineer Fazlur Khan and chief architect Bruce Graham. Unlike the in the Sears Towermarker, the building's antenna masts are the same height, which gives the building a much more symmetrical appearance, despite several similarities in the design of the two buildings.

The interior was remodeled in 1995, adding to the lobby travertine and textured limestone surfaces. The elliptical-shaped plaza outside the building serves as a public oasis with seasonal plantings and a 12-foot (3.7 m) waterfall. A band of white lights at the top of the building is visible all over Chicago at night and changes colors for different events. For example, at Christmas time the colors are green and red. When a sports team goes far in the playoffs, the colors change, too. When the Chicago Bears made the Super Bowl the colors were blue and orange.

The building is a member of the World Federation of Great Towers. It also has won various awards for its distinctive style, including the Distinguished Architects 25 Year Award from the American Institute of Architectsmarker in May 1999.


Including its antennas, the John Hancock Center has a height of 1,500 feet (457 m), making it the fifth-tallest building in the world when measured to pinnacle height (after Burj Dubaimarker, Willis Towermarker, the Shanghai World Financial Centermarker, and Taipei 101marker).

The Skydeck elevators of the John Hancock center, manufactured by Otis, travel 94 floors at a top speed of 1800 ft/min (20.5 mph).

Tenants and businesses

Position in Chicago's skyline

See also


  1. p. 422, American Architecture: A History, Leland M. Roth, Westview Press, 2003, ISBN 0813336627
  4. Headliners Higher and Higher Published: November 15, 1981 New York Times
  6. " Chicago." Qatar Airways. Retrieved on February 9, 2009.
  7. " Oficinas Consulares en Estados Unidos." Embassy of Chile in Washington, D.C. Retrieved on January 31, 2009.

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