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John Hancock Center

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Status  Complete
Cost  $100,000,000
Construction started  June 1965
Floors  100
Completed  1969
Owner  The Hearn Company
Height  344 m, 457 m to tip
John Hancock Center

Architectural style  Structural Expressionism
Location  Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Address  875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Architects  Fazlur Rahman Khan, Bruce Graham
Similar  Willis Tower, Magnificent Mile, Navy Pier, Cloud Gate, London Guarantee Building

The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,128-foot (343.7 m) supertall skyscraper at 875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, United States. It was constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, with chief designer Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan. When the building topped out on May 6, 1968, it was the second tallest building in the world and the tallest outside of New York City. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Chicago and the eighth-tallest in the United States, after One World Trade Center, the Willis Tower, 432 Park Avenue, the Trump Tower Chicago, the Empire State Building, the Bank of America Tower, and the Aon Center. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at 1,500 feet (457 m). The building is home to offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums, and contains the third highest residence in the world, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Trump Tower in Chicago. The building was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building.


From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Observatory (360 Chicago), which competes with the Willis Tower's Skydeck, has a 360° view of the city, up to four states, and a distance of over 80 miles (130 km). The Observatory has Chicago's only open-air SkyWalk and also features a free multimedia tour in six languages. The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.


The project, which would at that time become the world's second tallest building, was originally conceived of and owned by Jerry Wolman in late 1964, the project being financed by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co. Construction of the tower was interrupted in 1967 due to a flaw in an innovative engineering method used to pour concrete in stages that was discovered when the building was 20 stories high. The engineers were getting the same soil settlements for the 20 stories that had been built as what they had expected for the entire 99 stories. This forced the owner to stop development until the engineering problem could be resolved, and resulted in a credit crunch. This situation is similar to the one faced during the construction of 111 West Wacker, then known as the Waterview Tower. The owner went bankrupt, which resulted in John Hancock taking over the project, which retained the original design, architect, engineer, and main contractor.

The building's first resident was Ray Heckla, the original building engineer, responsible for the residential floors from 44 to 92. Heckla moved his family 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 building's exterior wall. 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.

The John Hancock Center was featured in the 1988 movie Poltergeist III.

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 scaffold fell 43 stories after being torn loose by wind gusts around 60 mph (100 km/h) crushing several cars, 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 Francisco based Shorenstein Properties LLC for $385 million and was purchased by a joint venture of Chicago-based Golub & Company and the Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds. Shorenstein had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.

Golub defaulted on its debt and the building was acquired in 2012 by Deutsche Bank AG who subsequently carved up the building. The venture of Deutsche Bank AG and New York-based NorthStar Realty Finance Corp. paid an estimated $325 million for debt on the Hancock in 2012 after its previous owners defaulted on $400 million in loans. The observation deck was sold to Paris-based Montparnasse 56 Group for $35 million and $45 in July 2012. That same month, Prudential Real Estate Investors acquired the retail and restaurant space for almost $142 million. In November 2012, Boston-based American Tower Corp affiliate paid $70 million for the antennas. In June 2013, a venture of Chicago-based real estate investment firm Hearn Co., New York-based investment firm Mount Kellett Capital Management L.P. and San Antonio-based developer Lynd Co. closed on the expected acquisition of the Hancock's 856,000 square feet of office space and 710-car parking deck. The Chicago firm did not disclose a price, but sources said it was about $145 million. This was the last step in that piecemeal sale process. In May 2016, Hearn Co. announced that they were seeking buyers for the naming rights with possible signage rights for the building.

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 2007 is 9 minutes 30 seconds.

On April 16, 2009 at 6:00AM CDT, WYCC-TV transmitting off the John Hancock switched to all-digital broadcasting, becoming Chicago's first television station to stop broadcasting in an analog signal. WYCC-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-DT, while all of the other area stations broadcast from the top of the Willis Tower.

On November 21, 2015, a fire broke out in an apartment on the 50th floor of the building. The Chicago Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire after an hour and a half; five people suffered minor injuries.


One of the most famous buildings of the structural expressionist style, the skyscraper's distinctive X-braced exterior shows that the structure's skin is part of its 'tubular system'. This is one of the engineering techniques which the designers used to achieve a record height (the tubular system is the structure that keeps the building 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. Such original features 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.

The interior was remodeled in 1995, adding to the lobby travertine, black granite, 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 Chicago-area sports team goes far in the playoffs, the colors are changed to match the team's colors.

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

The building is only partially protected by a fire sprinkler system, as the residential floors do not have sprinklers.


Including two antennas, the John Hancock Center has a height of 1,499 feet (457 m), making it the thirty-third tallest building in the world when measured to pinnacle height. The Observatory elevators of the John Hancock center, manufactured by Otis, travel 96 floors at a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20 mph; 9.1 m/s).

360° Chicago

Located on the 94th floor, 360° Chicago is the John Hancock Center's observatory. The floor of the observatory is 1,030 feet (310 m) off of street-level below. The entrance can be found on the concourse level of the John Hancock Center; mainly accessible by the Michigan Avenue side of the building. The observatory, previously called the John Hancock Observatory, has been independently owned and operated since 2014 by the Montparnasse 56 Group out of Paris, France. The elevators are credited to be the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, at a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20.5 mph). The observatory boasts larger floor space than its direct competitor, Skydeck at the Willis Tower. In addition, 360° Chicago has a cafe by Lavazza Coffee which stocks alcoholic beverages as well. In the summer of 2014, 360° Chicago added its TILT attraction. The TILT platform is an additional fee, and is a series of floor to ceiling windows that slowly tilt outside the building to 30°. The platform is on the observatory level, and faces south over the city. This observatory sees less attendance than the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, leading to a quieter and quicker experience.

Tenants and businesses

  • Accent Chicago
  • Best Buy
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • Cimaglia Productions
  • Consulate-General of Chile in Chicago, Suite 3352
  • Consulate General of Denmark, Chicago, Suite 3950
  • Elephants, Etc.
  • Big Shoulders Digital Video Production
  • Exclusively Gourmet, Ltd.
  • Etihad Airways (31st Floor)
  • Fingers & Toes Nail Salon
  • Gateway Newsstand & Snack Shop
  • Golin (PR firm), Suite 2600
  • Hanig's Footwear
  • 360° Chicago
  • Laurichem Inc., Suite 8609
  • The North Face
  • The Signature Room at the 95th
  • Regus, Suite 3100
  • Qatar Airways, Suite 1310
  • Weber Shandwick, Suite 2400
  • WDRV 97.1, Classic Rock Radio Station, Suite 1510
  • FCB (advertising agency)
  • Starbucks, Suite 3
  • References

    John Hancock Center Wikipedia