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John Hancock Center

Coordinates: 41°53′56″N 87°37′23″W / 41.8988°N 87.6230°W / 41.8988; -87.6230
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875 North Michigan Avenue
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)
Record height
Tallest in Chicago from 1969 to 1973[I]
Preceded byRichard J. Daley Center
Surpassed byWillis Tower
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; -87.6230
Construction started1965
Completed1969; 55 years ago (1969)
CostUS$100 million[1]
($831 million in 2023 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)Bruce Graham & 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, in New York City, 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; 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 the highest indoor swimming pool in the United States.[15]


20th century[edit]

August 17, 1968 photograph of the John Hancock Center during construction

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.[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, 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.[17]

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[a] and was purchased by a joint venture of Chicago-based Golub & Company and the Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds.[18] Shorenstein Properties had bought the building in 1998 for $220 million.[b]

Golub defaulted on its debt and the building was acquired in 2012 by Deutsche Bank, who subsequently carved up the building.[19] The venture of Deutsche Bank and New York–based NorthStar Realty Finance paid an estimated $325 million[c] for debt on 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2012 after Shorenstein Properties defaulted on $400 million[d] in loans.[20] The observation deck was sold to Paris-based Montparnasse 56 Group for between $35 million and $45 million[e] in July 2012.[21] That same month, Prudential Real Estate Investors acquired the retail and restaurant space for almost $142 million.[f][22] In November 2012, Boston-based American Tower Corp affiliate paid $70 million[g] for the antennas.[23] 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.[h][20] This was the last step in that piecemeal sale process.[20] In May 2016, Hearn Co. announced that they were seeking buyers for the naming rights with possible signage rights for the building.[24]

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.

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.[25]


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.[26][27]

On December 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his apartment on the 60th floor of the building.[28][29]

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.[30]

On February 11, 2018, a fire in a car on the seventh floor required approximately 150 firefighters to extinguish.[31]

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.[32] Subsequent investigation documented only a controlled descent from the 20th floor to the 11th floor.[33]

A piece of cladding fell from the building on January 5, 2022.[34]


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.[35] In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, the John Hancock Center was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places[36] 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.[37]

2015 photograph of the interior of one of the Otis Elevator Company-manufactured express elevators that serve the observation deck, The Signature Room, and Signature Lounge

The building is only partially protected by a fire sprinkler system,[38] as the residential floors do not have sprinklers.[39] 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.[40]


360 Chicago Observation Deck[edit]

Panoramic photograph showing the southeast interior corner of the observation deck in 2017

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) above the 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.[41] The elevators are credited as the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, with a top speed of 1,800 ft/min (20.5 mph; 9 m/s).[42] 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.[43] The observation deck also features an open-air "skydeck" area.

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.[40]

For several years in the 2010s, during its winter season, the observation deck would feature the "world's highest skating rink", with an artificial ice rink being seasonally installed.[44][45][46]

At one point, observation deck had a mascot named Seemore Miles.[44]

In the summer of 2014, 360 Chicago added its TILT attraction. TILT, which requires an additional fee to experience, features a series of floor-to-ceiling windows that slowly tilt outside the building to 30°.[47]

95th floor restaurant and 96th floor bar[edit]

Southeast corner of the Signature Room in 2017

Separate from its observatory, 875 Michigan Avenue has a restaurant space on its 95th floor and a bar space on its 96th floor. Prior to 1993, the space was occupied by a restaurant named The 95th.[48] From 1993 until 2023, the 95th floor was home to a restaurant named the Signature Room, with the accompanying bar on the 96th floor being called the Signature Lounge.[49][50][51] The name alluded to the famous signature of early American figure John Hancock.[48] The restaurant was an upscale establishment that offered patrons scenic views. It enforced a dress code for patrons.[50] It received numerous awards. In April 2023, the restaurant and bar were listed for sale.[52] In September 2023, the Signature Room abruptly ceased operations, with ownership citing "severe economic hardship" that they attributed to the impact of the earlier COVID-19 pandemic.[53][54]

Retail plaza[edit]

Plaza, photographed in 2007

The building features a two-level outdoor plaza along its Michigan Avenue face. The plaza contains retail and dinning tenants. The top level of the plaza is at street level, while the lower level is sunken below the street level.[55]

Current tenants include The Cheesecake Factory and The North Face.[56] Past tenants have included Best Buy.[57]

The plaza was originally rectangular in shape.[58] Per the Chicago Tribune, the plaza was modeled after the plaza at New York City's Rockefeller Center. The plaza's design featured a fountain pool that would be turned into an ice rink in colder weather.[59]

In 1988, plans were unveiled by the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company (the owners of the building at the time) to replace the plaza with a "$20 million[i] glass and marble three-story atrium". One rationale cited by building's management was they claimed that access to the building's ground level was complicated by the need of pedestrians to circumnavigate around the courtyard in order to reach the street-level entrance to the building's lobby. They also cited a belief that the building's entrance was too understated for a building of its level of prominence. This atrium proposal faced backlash from local residents who felt that such an addition would mar the appearance of the landmark building.[60] In 1989, newly-elected mayor Richard M. Daley criticized the proposed atrium and the plans were ultimately abandoned.[58]

In 1994, the plaza was renovated, with the sunken portion transforming from its previous rectangular shape to an elliptical shape. In 1999, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin wrote that this renovation had made the plaza a more "welcoming" space.[58] This renovation came after the more dramatic late-1980s renovation plans were abandoned.[58] A further $10 million renovation for the plaza was considered by the building's owners in the mid-2010s which would have added features such as video screens and decorative prisms to the plaza.[55][61]

Parking garage[edit]

Housed within several of the lower levels of the building is a parking garage, which cars enter and depart via a spiral vehicle ramp.[62]


Antennas and the top of the building, photographed in 2009

Since its completion, the tower has been topped by two antenna structures. These antenna superstructures support a large number of broadcast antenna equipment. At the time of the tower's completion, both antenna structures were 350 feet (110 metres) in height, and RCA[clarification needed] had given the architects of the building an estimate that 700 feet of antenna structure would be required to accommodate all of the city's radio and television stations. In 2002, the eastern antenna tower was extended to a height of 378 feet (115 metres) in order to enable WBBM-TV to add new digital antenna equipment at a height greater than the roof height of the Sears Tower (Willis Tower). Subsequently, the western antenna tower was reduced to a height of 285 feet (87 metres).[63]

For a long time, the antenna towers utilized incandescent red lights and a red and white paint scheme to provide a visibility to aviation in compliance with federal regulations. However, in order to forgo the expense and effort of annually reapplying striped paint to the antenna towers, the tower instead installed red strobe lights atop the tower and eliminated the striped paint scheme, as striped paint is not required if structures are topped by such lights.[63]

A sizable number of television and radio stations utilize the antenna towers. Many stations maintain broadcast equipment on both the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower's antenna structures in order to have both a primary and backup broadcasting point.[63]

In November 2012, Boston-based American Tower Corp affiliate paid $70 million[j] to acquire ownership of the antennas.[23]

44th floor sky lobby[edit]

44th floor sky lobby, photographed in 2013

The 44th level skylobby is the floor where the building transitions from offices to residential, with offices occupying floors below and residences occupying floors above.[64]

Swimming pool[edit]

On its 44th floor, the John Hancock Center has a resident swimming pool. The pool area has double-height ceilings.[65]

The pool is the highest pool in the United States when measured by distance above ground level.[65]

Resident/office tenant grocery store[edit]

On its 44th floor, the building has a 5,200 square feet (480 m2) grocery store accessible only to apartment residents and office tenants. In 2007, operation of the grocery store was taken over by the local Potash chain of grocery stores.[66] As of February 2023, Potash continues to operate the grocery store.[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ equivalent to $582 million in 2023[2]
  2. ^ equivalent to $411 million in 2023[2]
  3. ^ equivalent to $431 million in 2023[2]
  4. ^ equivalent to $531 million in 2023[2]
  5. ^ equivalent to $46.5 million–$59.7 million in 2023[2]
  6. ^ equivalent to almost $188 million in 2023[2]
  7. ^ equivalent to $92.9 million in 2023[2]
  8. ^ equivalent to $190 million in 2023[2]
  9. ^ equivalent to $51.5 million in 2023[2]
  10. ^ equivalent to $92.9 million in 2023[2]


  1. ^ a b "John Hancock Observatory – At a Glance" (PDF) (Press release). Edelman. 2008. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 9, 2022. Retrieved September 16, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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 February 29, 2024.
  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.
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  7. ^ "John Hancock Center". Emporis.com. 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.
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  13. ^ "360 CHICAGO and BAR 94 Announce Neighborhood Takeover with KOVAL Distillery". Chicago Food Magazine. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
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  26. ^ Headliners Higher and Higher Published: 15 November 1981, New York Times
  27. ^ "Willis Tower". Archived from the original on March 20, 2012. Retrieved July 4, 2011.
  28. ^ "Chris Farley: Trivia". TV.com. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on January 14, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
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  38. ^ John Hancock Center "Contractor & Vendor Rules and Regulations, June 2013" Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Fire Sprinkler Times "Residential Floors of John Hancock Center Not Protected With Fire Sprinklers" Archived August 24, 2017, at the Wayback Machine
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  43. ^ "Cafe at 360 Chicago". 360 Chicago. Archived from the original on October 14, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  44. ^ a b "Chicago's John Hancock Observatory Launches Skating in the Sky". Crave Local. February 27, 2013. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  45. ^ "Skating In The Sky: Hancock Center Offers An Ice Skating Rink On The 94th Floor". HuffPost. December 28, 2010. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  46. ^ Tamboer, Andrea (December 29, 2010). "Chicago's John Hancock Center opening 94th floor skating rink". mlive. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  47. ^ "TILT". 360 chicago. Archived from the original on January 18, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
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  49. ^ Ravenstel, PeterOc (October 3, 2019). "The Views Still Stun at the Signature Lounge". Chicago Magazine.
  50. ^ a b "Signature Room on 95th floor of former Hancock building abruptly closes". NBC Chicago. September 28, 2023. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  51. ^ "Signature Room at the 95th". www.chicagoreader.com. Chicago Reader. n.d. Archived from the original on August 21, 2017. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
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  54. ^ Ewing, Tia; Duly, Maggie (September 28, 2023). "The Signature Room, iconic Chicago restaurant, closes doors for good". Fox 32 Chicago. Retrieved September 29, 2023.
  55. ^ a b Channick, Robert (May 20, 2016). "John Hancock Center shops naming rights to fund plaza redevelopment". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
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  65. ^ a b Spula, Ian (December 15, 2011). "Harbor Point v. Hancock: Who's Got the Edge in Indoor Pools?". Curbed Chicago. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  66. ^ Boss, Donna (October 22, 2007). "Potash Opens a Store With a View". Supermarket News. Retrieved February 21, 2023.
  67. ^ "Locations | Chicago". Potash Markets. Retrieved February 21, 2023.

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