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Chicago Sears Tower Views

Updated on December 17, 2014

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.

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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

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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.

Have you ever been to Chicago? Tell us about it.

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    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 22 months ago from Long Island, NY

      I worked in the Sears Tower (now known as the Willis Tower) as a computer systems analyst for Sears back in 1974, a year after construction was completed. That was my first job after college.

      Your hub brought back a lot of fond memories and images, as well as an education about what transpired with the tower after I had left. I knew Sears had financial problems, but I didn't realize the tower had changed hands so many times after they sold it.

      Times sure have changed. Today most construction companies can't seem to get a building of that size built anymore in just two years.

    • profile image

      Evelyn 2 years ago

      I saw this poster in 1975 in a sheootrsre in Richmond Va. I am a project manager for Fluor and build Biotech Project all over the world. I have search for a this poster for over 30 years and have not been able to locate. Do you know where I can find this poster?

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 3 years ago

      One of my favourite cities. Visited from the UK had coffee at top of the Hancock Tower and enjoyed good times on a North Halstead listening to the blues with Sunny Land Slim who signed his album for me.

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Very cool! I love those pictures, though I feel a bit dizzy! Great tour! I definitely feel like I have been to the sears tower. That view was magnificent! SquidAngel blessed! B : )

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      It's a been years since I have visited Chicago, but would love to again. Thank you for sharing, and the photos are breath taking. :)

    • Rangoon House profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Australia

      I spent my 18th birthday in Chicago, including a visit to Sear Tower and the theatre to see "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" All in all, a pretty perfect birthday. Blessings.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      I'm not much of a city person and have never been to Chicago, but these views are absolutely incredible! Great article.

    • SoniaCarew profile image

      SoniaCarew 5 years ago

      No. But I am certainly want to visit it now.

      Love the pictures!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Chicago is one of the places I am looking forward to visiting one summer

    • Blkeeslar profile image

      Billie Keeslar 5 years ago from Mississippi

      Nice Pictures, I went high school in the suburbs. We took the L downtown a lot. We would tell our parents we were spending the night with one another. Spent our time in Old Town (pretending we were gown up). My husband began his career in downtown Chicago for Wilding pictures. Lots of good memories

    • digitaltree profile image

      digitaltree 5 years ago

      Nice Lens and pictures.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      Outstanding views and great descriptions of what we are seeing. I have yet to get to the windy city but the Sear's Tower looks like a spot to stop and check out! Fabulous!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a view. I have been there with a group that went to help out at The Olive Branch Mission. Amazing city,

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      Great photos and well done lens. Just passed through Chicago on a layover on a train trip. Got to see a little bit, but not the tower.

    • serendipity831 profile image

      Drake McSherry 5 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      I love Chicago and it's not that far from where I live, so I've been there often. Great lens. :)

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Have not been but that one photo where you are looking straight down is pretty awesome! Great article. :)

    • DIY Mary profile image
      Author

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      @DLeighAlexander: No, I've never eaten there. Next time I visit Chicago, I will have to check it out.

    • DLeighAlexander profile image

      DLeighAlexander 5 years ago

      Yes, several times. Oak Brook, a Chicago suburb, was the corporate headquarters for our business. Downtown Chicago is a great experience. Have you eaten at Ed Debevic's, downtown Chicago? That too is quite an experience.

    • Cold0911 profile image

      Cold0911 5 years ago

      Chicago is one of my favorites cities. Being into House Music, I find some of the best records in the city that brought us House Music!

    • Cold0911 profile image

      Cold0911 5 years ago

      Chicago is one of my favorites cities. Being into House Music, I find some of the best records in the city that brought us House Music!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      I have been on the highway that runs through Chicago on my way to Pennsylvania so I saw the Sears Tower in the distance. We followed Route 66 from our home in California to Chicago but didn't have time to see the city. The photos are great and makes me want to take another trip.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I haven't been to Chicago, but my husband and son were there several months ago and they did go up in the tower. Nice that you had a clear day to take your gorgeous pictures! The one looking down actually made me dizzy. :) Thanks for the interesting facts. I learned some things today!