John Hancock Center

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875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago (22332583569).jpg
875 North Michigan Avenue in October 2015, viewed from the Willis Tower
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 started1965
CostUS$100 million[1]
($739 million in 2021 dollars[2])
OwnerThe Hearn Company
Architectural1,128 ft (344 m)[3]
Tip1,500 ft (457 m)[3]
Roof1,128 ft (344 m)
Top floor1,054 ft (321 m)[3]
Observatory1,030 ft (314 m)[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
Architect(s)Fazlur 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, the building was officially renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2018.

The skyscraper was designed by Peruvian-American chief designer Bruce Graham and Bangladeshi-American structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM).[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, and the tallest in Chicago. 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, years after leaving the building 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 touchscreens in six languages.[14] The 44th-floor sky lobby features America's highest indoor swimming pool.


20th century[edit]

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.

The 1988 film Poltergeist III was set at the John Hancock Center and was filmed in early 1987.[16]

21st century[edit]

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.[17] 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.[18] 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.[19] The observation deck was sold to Paris-based Montparnasse 56 Group for between $35 million and $45 million in July 2012.[20] That same month, Prudential Real Estate Investors acquired the retail and restaurant space for almost $142 million.[21] In November 2012, Boston-based American Tower Corp affiliate paid $70 million for the antennas.[22] 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 (79,500 m2) of office space and 710-car parking deck. The Chicago firm did not disclose a price, but sources said it was about $145 million.[19] This was the last step in that piecemeal sale process.[19] In May 2016, Hearn Co. announced that they were seeking buyers for the naming rights with possible signage rights for the building.[23]

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 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.[24]


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.[25][26]

On December 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his apartment on the 60th floor of the building.[27][28]

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 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.[29]

On February 11, 2018, a fire in a car on the seventh floor required approximately 150 firefighters to extinguish.[30]

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.[31] Subsequent investigation documented only a controlled descent from the 20th floor to the 11th floor.[32]

A piece of cladding fell from the building on January 5, 2022.[33]


John Hancock Center in 1974
X-bracing on the tower's facade

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.[34] In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, the John Hancock Center was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places[35] 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.[36]

The building is only partially protected by a fire sprinkler system,[37] as the residential floors do not have sprinklers.[38] Including its antennas, 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 the 95th floor in 38 seconds if they could run the entire trip at top speed.[39]

360 Chicago Observation Deck[edit]

Located on the 94th floor, 360 Chicago Observation Deck is 875 North Michigan Avenue's horizon 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, accessible from the Michigan Avenue side of the building. The observatory, previously named John Hancock Observatory, has been independently owned and operated since 2014 by the Montparnasse 56 Group of Paris, France.[40] The elevators are credited as the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, with a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20.5 mph).[41] The observatory boasts more floor space than its direct competitor, Skydeck at the Willis Tower. There is a full bar called BAR 94 which stocks local beer and spirits from Revolution Brewing and KOVAL Distillery.[42] In the summer of 2014, 360 Chicago added its TILT attraction. TILT, for an additional fee, is a series of floor-to-ceiling windows that slowly tilt outside the building to 30°.[43] The platform is on the observatory level, and faces south over the city.

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.[44]

Floor plan and tenants[edit]

Levels Purposes
100 Mechanical
96 Restaurant The Signature Lounge at the 96th[45]
95 The Signature Room at the 95th[46]
94 Indoor Observatory Deck (360° Chicago)
93 Mechanical
92 Condominium
44 Skylobby | Swimming pool
43 Mechanical
31 Etihad Airways
17 Mechanical
Ground Level The North Face[47] | Lobby
Concourse The Cheesecake Factory[47]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). 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: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 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 April 16, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "John Hancock Center - The Skyscraper Center". Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. Archived from the original on December 13, 2012.
  4. ^ "John Hancock Center". SkyscraperPage.
  5. ^ "John Hancock Center". Emporis. Archived from the original on January 19, 2016.
  6. ^ "John Hancock - Ownership". Archived from the original on March 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "John Hancock Center". Archived from the original on April 15, 2004. Retrieved May 19, 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. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved May 19, 2009.
  10. ^ a b "John Hancock Center skyscraper losing its iconic name" Archived February 13, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. 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. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. 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. ^
  17. ^ Golub Real Estate Investment and Development Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Ori, Ryan (April 20, 2013). "Carving up the Hancock". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c>
  20. ^ "Boul Mich deck with la view". Crain's Chicago Business. July 18, 2012. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  21. ^ Oberlander, Marissa (July 23, 2012). "Hancock's retail, restaurant space sells for almost $142 million". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  22. ^ 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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  25. ^ Headliners Higher and Higher Published: 15 November 1981, New York Times
  26. ^ "Willis Tower". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
  27. ^ "Chris Farley: Trivia". CNET Networks. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
  28. ^ "Chicago Ghosts". Chicago Hauntings Tours. Archived from the original on July 27, 2018. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
  29. ^ "5 Injured in 2-Alarm Fire at John Hancock Building". WMAQ-TV. NBCUniversal Media, LLC. November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 21, 2015.
  30. ^ Malagon, Elvia (February 11, 2018). "Car fire at John Hancock Center extinguished without injuries". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on November 20, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  31. ^ "Elevator in former Hancock building fell 84 floors before rescue". WGNTV. Associated Press. November 19, 2018. Retrieved November 19, 2018.
  32. ^ "Former Hancock building broken elevator cable never caused 'freefall,' 3rd party inspection report says". ABC7. April 23, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2020.
  33. ^ Liederman, Mack (January 7, 2022). "A Piece Of The Hancock Building Fell Off In 'Freak Incident,' Terrifying Neighbors". Block Club Chicago. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
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  35. ^ Waldinger, Mike (January 30, 2018). "The proud history of architecture in Illinois". Springfield Business Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
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  38. ^ Fire Sprinkler Times "Residential Floors of John Hancock Center Not Protected With Fire Sprinklers"
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  43. ^ "TILT". 360 chicago. 360 Chicago. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
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  45. ^ The Signature Room at the 96th, website
  46. ^ a b The Signature Room at the 95th, website
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The Cloudbase Chronicles, Life at the Top - An engineers Tale by Harry W. Budge III[1]

External links[edit]

Preceded by Tallest building in Chicago
1,128 ft
Succeeded by
Preceded by Tallest building in the United States outside of New York City
1,128 ft
  1. ^ Outskirts Press 2010