Chicago Sears Tower Views
A Bird's Eye View Of The Windy City
Although I have visited Chicago only a few times in my life, this city is one of my favorites because the people are really friendly and there are more than enough tourist attractions to keep you busy for a lifetime. This city is also home to many of the world's tallest buildings, most notably, the majestic Sears Tower.
In July of 2010, I was in Chicago on business and had a free afternoon, so I decided to take a tour of this famous landmark. While I was at the top, I had the opportunity to take in many spectacular sights of the Windy City, some of which you will see here on this page. A favorite Chicago tourist attraction, the Sears Tower was once the tallest building in the world and still remains a mighty contender.
The above photo is a view of the West side of the Sears Tower looking down through the Skydeck.
Photo credits: All photos on this page are by DIY Mary unless otherwise noted.
Have you ever been to the Sears Tower?
Sears Tower Overview
While we wait in line to get to the top, let me tell you a bit about its background and history ...
The Sears Tower is a 108-story skyscraper in Chicago that stands at a height of 1,451 feet (1,729 feet, including its antennae). Built in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world at that time and remained so until 1998 when the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia took over that title. Since then, several other skyscrapers have been built around the world so that today, the Sears Tower remains the tallest building in the United States and is the 7th tallest freestanding structure in the world as of 2012. Its official address is 233 South Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL, 60606.
Background And History
The history of the Sears Tower dates back to 1969 when Sears & Roebuck, then the largest retailer in the world, decided it needed some new office space. With an immediate need for 3 million square feet, Sears also had plans for future growth. The company hired the architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), to construct a building that would house all this office space and also be the tallest in the world.
Construction began in April, 1971, and was completed in May, 1973. Architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan designed the Sears Tower as a bundled "tube" structure consisting of nine separate buildings of different heights clustered together in a 3 x 3 matrix. The two antennae at the top were not added until February, 1982, increasing the tower's total height to 1,707 feet. The western antenna was later extended so that today, the building towers at a staggering 1,729 feet. The building's total square footage is just over 4.5 million.
Sears & Roebuck plans for future growth never materialized as the company ran into some hard times. As the 1970s progressed, the company met with some stiff competition from Montgomery Ward and chains such as K-Mart, Kohl's, and Wal-mart, and the company's sales declined. In 1994, Sears sold the building, which was one third vacant at the time, to Boston-based AEW Capital Management, and by 1995, Sears had completely vacated the building and moved to Hoffman Estates, IL. Since then, the Sears Tower has exchanged hands several times.
On July 16, 2009, this landmark skyscraper was officially renamed the Willis Tower when Willis Group Holdings, a London-based insurance brokerage, leased a portion of the building and obtained its naming rights which expired in 2003 for Sears.
From the Sears Tower, much of Chicago, including Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and most of the city's magnificent buildings, can be viewed in all its glory. On this page, I will walk you through my tour which proceeds clockwise, starting with views from atop the tower looking to the Southeast.
Image credit: Soakologist
Did you know that the Sears Tower had been renamed?
Looking To The Southeast ...
Looking to the Southeast from atop the Sears (Willis) Tower, you can see Lake Michigan and Northerly Island Park, a man-made peninsula built in 1925 that is connected to the mainland by a small strip of land along which Solidarity Drive runs. Northerly Park Island is home to the Adler Planetarium and other tourist attractions.
Looking To The South ...
Looking to the South, you can see the Chicago River and Wacker Drive which runs roughly parallel to it.
311 South Wacker Drive
The tall, thin building with what looks like four silos on top (one large one surrounded by three smaller ones) is a Chicago skyscraper referred to by its address: 311 South Wacker Drive. This building is pretty tall in its own right, standing at a height of 961 feet, but from where I'm standing right now, it doesn't look quite so large.
A View Along The West Side Of The Sears (Willis) Tower
The photo above is the West side of the Sears (Willis) Tower as seen from the Skydeck, a plexiglass enclosure located at an elevation of 1353 feet that extends about 4-5 feet from the side of the building. From within the Skydeck, you can get spectacular views of the Chicago skyline, especially on clear days (unfortunately, the day I took my tour was a bit cloudy). You can also peer through the transparent plexiglass floor or ledge to see the city below, and if you look at just the right angle, you can get a clear view of the side of the Sears Tower building, as I have done here.
In this photo, you can see the Chicago River in the background and Wacker Street running alongside it. You can also see clear reflections of some of the surrounding buildings off the Sears (Willis) Tower building.
Looking To The North ...
Looking to the North, you can see a bit of the Chicago River on the lower left-hand side, a sea of buildings and skyscrapers, and Lake Michigan to the right. Off in the distance to the right is the John Hancock Center, the tall black building with two antennae which you can barely make out here through the haze.
Three Of The Tallest Buildings In The World
Looking to the Northeast, you can see three of the tallest buildings in the world in close proximity. They are, from left to right, the John Hancock Center, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, and the Aon Center. They rank at #4, #2, and #3, respectively, as the tallest buildings in Chicago, and they are also top contenders for world's tallest buildings, all ranking well within the Top 40.
The John Hancock Center And Trump Tower Up Close
Shown here is the John Hancock Center and Lake Michigan in the background. The John Hancock Center has a height of 1,127 feet (1,506 feet with its antennae). The tall, silvery building to the right is the Trump International Hotel and Tower which stands at 1,170 feet (1,389 feet including its spire).
Looking To The East ...
Looking to the East, you can see Lake Michigan in the background. The bright red building is the CNA Plaza which is located at 333 South Wabash Avenue.
Coming Full Circle ...
We have arrived full circle with Northerly Island Park in full view, which is where we started out.
Sears (Willis) Tower Souvenirs
I just opened a new shop at zazzle.com called Photogenic Sights which carries products I made from my photos. These products include posters, canvas prints, postcards, greeting cards, mouse pads, jigsaw puzzles, key chains, and many other souvenir items. Shown below are posters made from photos I took of Chicago from atop the Sears Tower. These and other items from my store can be purchased by clicking on any image.