John Hancock Center

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For the tower in Boston, see John Hancock Tower.
John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center - Chicago.jpg
John Hancock Center viewed from Lake Michigan in August 2015
General information
Status Complete
Architectural style Structural Expressionism
Location Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Coordinates 41°53′56″N 87°37′23″W / 41.8988°N 87.6230°W / 41.8988; -87.6230Coordinates: 41°53′56″N 87°37′23″W / 41.8988°N 87.6230°W / 41.8988; -87.6230
Construction started 1965
Completed 1969[1]
Cost $100,000,000[1]
Owner The Hearn Company
Architectural 1,127 ft (344 m)[2]
Tip 1,506 ft (459 m)[2]
Roof 1,127 ft (344 m)
Top floor 1,054 ft (321 m)[2]
Observatory 1,030 ft (314 m)[2]
Technical details
Floor count 100[2]
Floor area 2,799,973 sq ft (260,126 m2)[2]
Lifts/elevators 50, made by Otis Elevator Company[2]
Design and construction
Architect Fazlur Rahman Khan[3]
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Developer John Hancock Insurance
Main contractor Tishman Construction Co.

The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,127-foot[7] (344 m) supertall skyscraper at 875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, United States. It was constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill,[7] with chief designer Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan.[8] When the building topped out on May 6, 1968,[1] it was the tallest building in the world outside New York City. It is currently the fourth-tallest building in Chicago and the seventh-tallest in the United States, after One World Trade Center, the Willis Tower, 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 1,506 feet (459 m).[9] 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 Trump Tower in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.[10] The building was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building,[11] and has the nickname "Big John".

From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan. The Observatory (360 Chicago),[12] 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.[13] The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.[14] On Saturday November 21, 2015 a fire occurred on the 50th floor of the building.[15]


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.[16] 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.[17][18]

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.[19][20]

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.[21] Shorenstein had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.

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.[22]

The previous owners fetched about $410 million through an unusual process in which it sold off the tower at 875 N. Michigan Ave. in four separate pieces to widen the pool of potential buyers. The office and parking portion was the last step in that piecemeal sale process. 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 NorthStar-Deutsche Bank venture already had sold the retail and restaurant space, the observatory and the broadcast antennas for a combined $256 million in three previous deals.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25]


The John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center

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 building is protected by a fire sprinkler system.[26]

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.[27]


As seen from the Willis Tower. Lake Michigan is seen in backdrop.

Including two antennas, the John Hancock Center has a height of 1,499 feet (457.2 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[edit]

Located on the 94th floor, 360° Chicago is the John Hancock Center's observatory. The floor of the observatory is 1,030 feet 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.[28] The elevators are credited to be the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, at a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20.5 mph).[29] 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.[30] 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°.[31] 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[edit]

Panorama of the skyline of Chicago[edit]

311 South Wacker Willis Tower Chicago Board of Trade Building 111 South Wacker AT&T Corporate Center Kluczynski Federal Building CNA Center Chase Tower Three First National Plaza Mid-Continental Plaza Richard J. Daley Center Chicago Title and Trust Center 77 West Wacker Pittsfield Building Leo Burnett Building The Heritage at Millennium Park Crain Communications Building IBM Plaza One Prudential Plaza Two Prudential Plaza Aon Center Blue Cross and Blue Shield Tower 340 on the Park Park Tower Olympia Centre 900 North Michigan John Hancock Center Water Tower Place Harbor Point The Parkshore North Pier Apartments Lake Point Tower Jay Pritzker Pavilion Buckingham Fountain Lake Michigan Lake Michigan Lake MichiganThe skyline of a city with many large skyscrapers; in the foreground are a green park and a lake with many sailboats moored on it. Over 30 of the skyscrapers and some park features are labeled.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "John Hancock Observatory – At a Glance" (PDF) (Press release). Edelman. 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "John Hancock Center - The Skyscraper Center". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. 
  3. ^ "The 20 Most Notable Engineers of All Time". High Tech History. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  4. ^ John Hancock Center at SkyscraperPage
  5. ^ John Hancock Center at Emporis
  6. ^ September 2013 "John Hancock - Ownership" Check |url= scheme (help). 
  7. ^ a b "John Hancock Center". Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  8. ^ p. 422, American Architecture: A History, Leland M. Roth, Westview Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8133-3662-7
  9. ^ "The John Hancock Center: 875 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois". Chicago Architecture Info. Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  10. ^ "The John Hancock Center". Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "John Hancock Insuance". Academic dictionaries and encyclopedias (in Russian). Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  12. ^ Malooley, Jake (January 30, 2014). "John Hancock Observatory to rebrand as 360 Chicago". Time Out Chicago. 
  13. ^ "Hancock Observatory tour, Schwimmer included". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Jerry Wolman: The World's Richest Man, Joseph Bokol, Richard Bokol, 2012
  17. ^ Headliners Higher and Higher Published: 15 November 1981, New York Times
  18. ^ "Sears Tower". Retrieved 4 July 2011. 
  19. ^ "Chris Farley: Trivia". CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 17 April 2008. 
  20. ^ "Chicago Ghosts". Chicago Hauntings Tours. Retrieved 17 April 2008. 
  21. ^ Golub Real Estate Investment and Development
  22. ^ <>
  23. ^ <>
  24. ^ "WYCC-Channel 20 goes all-digital early". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  25. ^ "5 Injured in 2-Alarm Fire at John Hancock Building". WMAQ-TV. NBCUniversal Media, LLC. 21 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015. 
  26. ^ John Hancock Center "Contractor & Vendor Rules and Regulations, June 2013"
  27. ^ "Twenty Five Year Award Recipients". American Institute of Architects. Retrieved July 3, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Plan Your Visit". 360 Chicago. 360 Chicago. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  29. ^ "History of the John Hancock". 360 Chicago. 360 Chicago. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  30. ^ "Cafe at 360 Chicago". 360 Chicago. 360 chicago. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  31. ^ "TILT". 360 chicago. 360 Chicago. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 
  32. ^ "New Best Buy Opens in John Hancock Center on Chicago's Famous Magnificent Mile". Yahoo! News. 14 May 2009. Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  33. ^ a b c "John Hancock Center Chicago". Retrieved 19 May 2009. 
  34. ^ "Oficinas Consulares en Estados Unidos." Embassy of Chile in Washington, D.C. Accessed 31 January 2009
  35. ^ "Consulate General of Denmark - Chicago." Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed 7 May 2012
  36. ^ "[1]"
  37. ^ "Our offices." (Select United States of America) Etihad Airways. Accessed 11 February 2010
  38. ^ "[2]
  39. ^ Hanig's Footwear, website
  40. ^ The Signature Room at the 95th, website
  41. ^ "Chicago." Qatar Airways. Accessed 9 February 2009
  42. ^ "[3]
  43. ^
  44. ^ [4]
  45. ^ [5]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Richard J. Daley Center
Tallest building in Chicago
344 m
Succeeded by
Aon Center
Preceded by
Prudential Tower
Tallest building in the United States outside of New York City
344 m