May 26, 2008

Sears Tower Stands Above All

Welcome to The Chicago Traveler's 500th post! For this milestone, it's time to feature Chicago's claim to fame, the Sears Tower.

sears tower

In a city known for its architecture, this is the cream of the crop. Constructed like nine square columns, the building reaches a height of 1451 feet (442 m) and 110 stories with 104 elevators. It was completed in 1974 as a way for Sears, Roebuck & Co. to consolidate the thousands of employees that were distributed in offices throughout the city. Sears was the largest retailer in the world at the time and had deep pockets from which to finance the construction. In fact, the company wanted to build an even taller building than exists today, but it was restricted by a limit enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration.

sears towerUnfortunately, the '80s brought Sears plenty of retailing competition (Kmart, Wal-mart, etc), and the Tower did not draw as many office renters as Sears had hoped. Many of the offices stood empty for several years, and eventually the company had to take out a mortgage on the building. Sears moved out of the building altogether by 1995 but has retained the naming rights. The Tower is now occupied by more than 100 different corporations, including major law firms and insurance companies.

The Skydeck is located on the 103rd floor and is obviously a popular tourist attraction. On a clear day, you can see far beyond the city limits to the plains of Illinois and even across Lake Michigan to Indiana and Michigan. (Random bit of trivia: the restrooms on the Skydeck are the highest in the world.) There are two elevators that go straight to the Skydeck, an upward trip that takes approximately 45 seconds. As the air pressure decreases rapidly, your ears will likely pop, so be sure to yawn or bring some chewing gum!

sears towerOn September 11, 2001, the entire building was evacuated after the terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center. The Skydeck remained closed until late October of that year.

In 2004, the Sears Tower was equipped with cellular 'repeaters.' People visiting and working in the upper floors had difficulty making and receiving calls because they were 1,000 feet (305 m) higher than the nearest cell phone tower!

skyscraper compareBut let's get to the nitty gritty. Is it the tallest or not? Well, that depends on whom you ask. If you measure to the top of an architectural element (i.e., a spire), to the roof height, or to the highest occupied floor, the title of 'Tallest' belongs to Taipei 101 in Taiwan. However, the Sears Tower still comes out on top if you assess the entire building, antennas and all. There is still some debate though on whether rooftop antennas should be considered toward the height of a building. Regardless, it is the tallest office building and the second-tallest structure (just a bit shorter than Toronto's CN Tower) in North America. Of course, there are several buildings currently under construction that will surpass the Sears Tower, including the Freedom Tower in New York City, Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, and the Windy City's own Chicago Spire.

When it comes to great views and great architecture in Chicago, the Sears Tower surely comes out on top. General admission to the Skydeck is $12.95 for adults and $9.50 for children (ages 3-11). Audio tours cost extra. The Sears Tower Skydeck is also one of over 25 attractions whose admission is included with the Go Chicago Card. Call Tower Self Park (211 W Adams St; 312-782-5570) for information on parking rates.

sears towersears tower

Photo credit: Wikipedia, (c/o Flickr:) jaymce, wallyg (1, 2, 3), jpellgen

Sears Tower: 233 S Wacker Dr; 312-875-9696
Skydeck Hours
Daily: (Apr ' Sept) 10:00 a.m. ' 10:00 p.m., (Oct ' Mar) 10:00 a.m. ' 8:00 p.m.
Street parking difficult; pay lot available
Public trans: Bus # 1, 7, 11, X28, 126, 151, 156
Brown/Purple/Pink/Orange Line train (Quincy)
3-D View (Google Earth required)


9 comments to Sears Tower Stands Above All

  1. Mary Jo
    May 26th, 2008 at 10:36 am

    I always love going up in the Sears Tower!

    And a very happy 500th!

  2. John Hancock Center: the OTHER Black Skyscraper
    May 26th, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    [...] today, I wrote about Chicago's architectural icon, the Sears Tower. I feel it necessary now to write about its older, shorter brother, the John Hancock [...]

  3. "T" Time
    May 27th, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    [...] about tall buildings? Chicago's three tallest buildings are the Sears Tower, the Aon Center, and the John Hancock Center, all standing well over one thousand feet tall (305 [...]

  4. Chicago Spire Is the Next Big Thing
    June 2nd, 2008 at 6:02 am

    [...] Sears Tower may no longer be officially considered the tallest building in the world, but that hasn't stopped [...]

  5. Aon Center
    June 13th, 2008 at 11:56 am

    [...] so everyone knows the tallest building in Chicago, the Sears Tower. But can you name the second-tallest? Most Chicago natives probably know it without realizing it: [...]

  6. jaymce
    June 30th, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    thank you for featuring my photo on this post…

  7. Friday Film: Save the Last Dance
    July 25th, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    [...] of Chicago as the two characters travel by bus and train to areas around Harold Washington Library, Sears Tower, the Chicago River, and the Chicago Theatre (featuring the Joffrey Ballet). Other filming locations [...]

  8. Sears Tower Presents Olympic Wall of Flags
    August 12th, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    [...] is showing its own support by displaying a wall of flags in the lobby of the Sears Tower. The exhibit features more than 200 flags from every country participating in this year's [...]

  9. Her Majesty, 311 South Wacker
    August 25th, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    [...] Sears Tower may be Chicago's architectural shining star, but skyline neighbor 311 South Wacker Drive is a [...]

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