John Hancock Center

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875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago (22332583569).jpg
875 North Michigan Avenue in April 2019
John Hancock Center is located in Chicago metropolitan area
John Hancock Center
Location within Chicago metropolitan area
John Hancock Center is located in Illinois
John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center (Illinois)
John Hancock Center is located in the United States
John Hancock Center
John Hancock Center (the United States)
General information
Architectural styleStructural Expressionism
LocationChicago, Illinois, U.S.
Address875 North Michigan Avenue (additional entrances at 175 East Delaware Place and 170 East Chestnut Street)
Coordinates41°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 started1961
CostUS$100 million[1]
($706 million in 2020 dollars[2])
OwnerThe Hearn Company
Architectural1,129 ft (344 m)[3]
Tip457 m (1,499 ft)[3]
Roof457 m (1,499 ft)
Top floor344 m (1,129 ft)[3]
Observatory457 m (1,499 ft)[3]
Technical details
Floor count100[3]
Floor area2,799,973 sq ft (260,126 m2)[3]
Lifts/elevators50, made by Otis Elevator Company[3]
Design and construction
ArchitectFazlur Rahman Khan
Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
DeveloperJohn Hancock Insurance
Structural engineerSkidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
Main contractorTishman Construction Co.

The John Hancock Center is a 100-story, 1,128-foot[7] supertall skyscraper located in Chicago, Illinois. Located in the Magnificent Mile district, its name was changed to 875 North Michigan Avenue on February 12, 2018. Despite this, the building is still colloquially called the John Hancock Center.

It was constructed under the supervision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill,[7] with Peruvian-US chief designer Bruce Graham and Bangladeshi structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan.[8] When the building topped out on May 6, 1968,[1] it was the second-tallest building in the world after the Empire State Building, the tallest in Chicago, and the tallest outside New York City. It is currently the fifth-tallest building in Chicago and the thirteenth-tallest in the United States, behind the Aon Center in Chicago and ahead of the Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia. When measured to the top of its antenna masts, it stands at 1,500 feet (457 m).[9] The building is home to several offices and restaurants, as well as about 700 condominiums, and at the time of its completion contained the highest residence in the world. The building was named for John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a developer and original tenant of the building, which itself was named for the U.S. Founding Father John Hancock.[10] In 2018, John Hancock Insurance requested that its name be removed and the owner is seeking another naming rights deal.[10]

From the 95th floor restaurant, diners can look out at Chicago and Lake Michigan. The observatory (360 Chicago),[11] 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). 360 Chicago is home to TILT, a moving platform that leans visitors over the edge of the skyscraper to a 30-degree angle,[12] a full bar with local selections,[13] Chicago's only open-air SkyWalk, and also features free interactive high definition touch screens in six languages.[14] The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.


The project, which would become the world's second tallest building at opening, was conceived and owned by Jerry Wolman in late 1964. The project was financed by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company. 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.[15] 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, resulting in a credit crunch. The situation is similar to the one faced during the construction of 111 West Wacker, then known as the Waterview Tower. Wolman's bankruptcy 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.[16][17]

The John Hancock Center is featured in the 1988 film Poltergeist III.

On December 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his apartment on the 60th floor of the building.[18][19]

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 for $385 million and was purchased by a joint venture of Chicago-based Golub & Company and the Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds.[20] Shorenstein Properties had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.

Golub defaulted on its debt and the building was acquired in 2012 by Deutsche Bank who subsequently carved up the building.[21] The venture of Deutsche Bank and New York-based NorthStar Realty Finance paid an estimated $325 million for debt on 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2012 after Shorenstein Properties defaulted on $400 million in loans.[22] The observation deck was sold to Paris-based Montparnasse 56 Group for between $35 million and $45 million in July 2012.[23] That same month, Prudential Real Estate Investors acquired the retail and restaurant space for almost $142 million.[24] In November 2012, Boston-based American Tower Corp affiliate paid $70 million for the antennas.[25] 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 875 North Michigan Avenue'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] This was the last step in that piecemeal sale process.[22] In May 2016, Hearn Co. announced that they were seeking buyers for the naming rights with possible signage rights for the building.[26]

Hustle up the Hancock is an annual stair climb race up the 94 floors from the Michigan Avenue level to the observation deck. It is held on the last Sunday of February. The climb benefits Respiratory Health Association. The record time as of 2007 is 9 minutes 30 seconds.

The building is home to the transmitter of Univision's WGBO-DT (channel 66), while all other full-power television stations in Chicago broadcast from Willis Tower. The City Colleges of Chicago's WYCC (channel 20) transmitted from the building until November 2017, when it departed the air as part of the 2016 FCC spectrum auction, and will eventually return as a part of WTTW's spectrum from 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.[27]

On February 11, 2018, a fire in a car on the seventh floor required approximately 150 firefighters to extinguish.[28]

On February 12, 2018, John Hancock Insurance requested that its name and logos throughout the building's interior be removed immediately; John Hancock had not had a naming-rights deal with the skyscraper's owners since 2013. The building's name was subsequently changed to its street address as 875 North Michigan Avenue.[29]

On November 16, 2018, an express elevator cable broke. Initial reports stated that an elevator with six passengers plunged 84 stories from the 95th to 11th floor. Since express elevators are not accessible from floors within the express zone, a team of firefighters had to break through a brick wall from the parking garage to extricate the passengers, none of whom suffered injuries. Elevators to the 95th/96th floor were closed thereafter pending investigation.[30] Subsequent investigation documented only a controlled descent from the 20th floor to the 11th floor.[31]


X-bracing on the tower's façade

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 allowed 875 North Michigan Avenue to become 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 that 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.[32] In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, the John Hancock Center was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places[33] by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois) and was recognized by USA Today Travel magazine, as one of AIA Illinois' selections for Illinois 25 Must See Places.[34]

The building is only partially protected by a fire sprinkler system,[35] as the residential floors do not have sprinklers.[36]


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

Including its antennae, the building has a height of 1,500 feet (457 m), making it the thirty-third tallest building in the world when measured to pinnacle height. The Observatory elevators of 875 North Michigan Avenue, manufactured by Otis, travel 96 floors at a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20 mph; 9.1 m/s). It has been said the elevators to the observation deck are the fastest in North America, reaching from ground floor to the 95th floor at a top speed of 38 seconds.[37]

360 Chicago Observation Deck[edit]

Located on the 94th floor, 360 Chicago Observation Deck is 875 North Michigan Avenue'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 875 North Michigan Avenue and is mainly accessible from 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.[38] The elevators are credited to be the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, at a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20.5 mph).[39] The observatory boasts larger floor space than its direct competitor, Skydeck at the Willis Tower. In addition, 360 Chicago has a full bar called BAR 94 which stocks local beer and spirits from Revolution Brewing and KOVAL Distillery.[40] In the summer of 2014, 360 Chicago added its TILT attraction. TILT is an additional fee, and is a series of floor to ceiling windows that slowly tilt outside the building to 30°.[41] 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.

Signature Room[edit]

Separate from its observatory, 875 North Michigan Avenue has a restaurant on its 95th floor named the Signature Room, with an accompanying bar on the 96th floor called the Signature Lounge.[42]

Tenants and businesses[edit]


See also[edit]


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  2. ^ 1634 to 1699: Harris, P. (1996). "Inflation and Deflation in Early America, 1634–1860: Patterns of Change in the British American Economy". Social Science History. 20 (4): 469–505. JSTOR 1171338. 1700-1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How much is that in real money?: a historical price index for use as a deflator of money values in the economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
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  10. ^ a b "John Hancock Center skyscraper losing its iconic name". Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2018.
  11. ^ Malooley, Jake (January 30, 2014). "John Hancock Observatory to rebrand as 360 Chicago". Time Out Chicago. Archived from the original on June 16, 2018. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  12. ^ Kuhrt Brewer, Carole. "TILT Chicago: A Thrill Ride One-Thousand Feet in the Sky Atop 360 CHICAGO". Chicago Now. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  13. ^ "360 CHICAGO and BAR 94 Announce Neighborhood Takeover with KOVAL Distillery". Chicago Food Magazine. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  14. ^ "Plan Your Visit to John Hancock Observatory Deck - 360 Chicago". 360 Chicago. 360 Chicago. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  15. ^ Jerry Wolman: The World's Richest Man, Joseph Bokol, Richard Bokol, 2012
  16. ^ Headliners Higher and Higher Published: 15 November 1981, New York Times
  17. ^ "Willis Tower". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
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  19. ^ "Chicago Ghosts". Chicago Hauntings Tours. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
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  22. ^ a b c <>
  23. ^ "Boul Mich deck with la view". Crain's Chicago Business. July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
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  25. ^ Oberlander, Marissa (November 21, 2012). "How much for the antennas atop Hancock Center?". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
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  33. ^ Waldinger, Mike (January 30, 2018). "The proud history of architecture in Illinois". Springfield Business Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
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  35. ^ John Hancock Center "Contractor & Vendor Rules and Regulations, June 2013" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Fire Sprinkler Times "Residential Floors of John Hancock Center Not Protected With Fire Sprinklers"
  37. ^ "Asian Skyscrapers Dominate A New List Of The World's Fastest Elevators". Business Insider. Retrieved September 26, 2017.
  38. ^ "Plan Your Visit". 360 Chicago. 360 Chicago. Archived from the original on January 17, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
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  40. ^ "Cafe at 360 Chicago". 360 Chicago. 360 chicago. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  41. ^ "TILT". 360 chicago. 360 Chicago. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
  42. ^ "Signature Room at the 5th". Chicago Reader. n.d. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  43. ^ "Benihana Brings Iconic Dining Experience to Downtown Chicago" (PDF). August 9, 2017. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  44. ^ a b "John Hancock Center Chicago". Benihana. Archived from the original on July 17, 2009. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  45. ^ "Oficinas Consulares en Estados Unidos." Embassy of Chile in Washington, D.C. Accessed January 31, 2009
  46. ^ "Consulate General of Denmark - Chicago Archived August 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine." Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed May 7, 2012
  47. ^ "[1] Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine"
  48. ^ "Our offices Archived February 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine." (Select United States of America) Etihad Airways. Accessed February 11, 2010
  49. ^ "[2]
  50. ^ Hanig's Footwear, website
  51. ^ The Signature Room at the 95th, website
  52. ^ "[3]
  53. ^
  54. ^ [4]
  55. ^ [5]

The Cloudbase Chronicles, Life at the Top - An engineers Tale by Harry W. Budge III[1]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Richard J. Daley Center
Tallest building in Chicago
1,128 ft
Succeeded by
Aon Center
Preceded by
One Prudential Plaza
Tallest building in the United States outside of New York City
1,128 ft
  1. ^ Outskirts Press 2010