The History of the John Hancock Building

The History of the John Hancock Building

Along with the Trump Tower and the Willis Tower, the John Hancock building is among the 3 most iconic skyscrapers in Chicago, which give the city’s skyline a look that inspired the poet Carl Sandburg to dub this metropolis “the city of broad shoulders.” While the Willis Tower stands at the southwestern edge of downtown, and the Trump Tower climbs from its heart, the Hancock marks downtown’s northeastern corner, and is easily the most architecturally distinct among them with its tapered frame made of black steel.

Early History

John Hancock Building area

The John Hancock building was conceived in 1964 by developer Jerry Wolman, the one-time owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, and designed by Bruce Graham, the designer of the Willis Tower.

In 1967, it was discovered that after 20 stories were finished, the tower’s structure was improperly fortified by something tragically minor: the wrong kind of concrete. Because of this costly error, many of Wolman’s investors became weary of continuing to finance the project. Thankfully, John Hancock Financial took over financing and construction continued without a hitch.

The John Hancock Building’s Design

The John Hancock building is among the most famous works of structural expressionism, which is a popular style of architecture from the 60’s and 70’s that incorporates futuristic tones in it design. Structural expressionist buildings often highlight their industrial design by showing their frames as part of their exterior. This gives such buildings a distinctive inside-out look. The giant x’s that brace the Hancock’s sides are an example of this design aspect. While they are only ornamental, they look like structural supports built for balancing the building’s frame. As for its height, including the two antennas atop the Hancock’s roof, the skyscraper measures 1,499 feet, making it the 33rd largest tower in the world.

The John Hancock Observatory

Now called 360 Chicago, the John Hancock observatory privileges its visitors with an immersive 360 degree view of the city and Lake Michigan from 1,000 feet in the air, but you’ll see much more than that. At 1,000 feet, you can see as far as Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Iowa. It’s also a thrilling way to see Michigan Avenue below.

To See the John Hancock Building and Other Chicago Landmarks, Choose Shoreline Sightseeing

To enjoy all the renowned sights during your next Chicago vacation, choose Shoreline Sightseeing. We offer many options, including guided architecture tours and lakeside boat cruises, which will give you an unrivaled view of the Windy City. To start planning your next trip, review our calendar online, so you can experience “the city of broad shoulders” up close.