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12 Awesome John Hancock Center Facts

Did you know that one of the most amazing skyscrapers in the world was built in the 1960s in Chicago?

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of John Hancock Center facts, an amazing skyscraper in Chicago one of the most fascinating buildings in the city and the United States!

1. The skyscraper is located in the Magnificent Mile District

The John Hancock Center is one of the most fascinating buildings in Chicago, Illinois, in the Midwestern region of the United States.

It can be found in a section of the city referred to as the “Magnificent Mile,” sometimes called the “Mag Mile” as well. This is one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city and runs one of the most famous streets in Chicago called Michigan Avenue.

The Magnificent Mile runs from the Chicago River to Oak Street in the Near North Side of the city. It’s home to some of the most famous landmarks in Chicago, including the Wrigley Building, the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower, and the Chicago Water Tower.

John Hancock Center Michigan Avenue
The Mag Mile / TonyTheTiger /

2. It was indirectly named for one of the country’s Founding Fathers

The idea to build one of the tallest buildings in the world came from a developer in Washington D.C. and the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jerry Wolman (1927-2013), in the year 1964.

The project was financed by John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company which was one of the initial tenants of the building as well. This company was named for one of the Founding Fathers of the United States named John Hancock (1737-1793).

As the company financed the project, it also acquired the naming rights.

John Hancock
Founding Father John Hancock / Wiki Commons

3. The building has had another official name since 2018

The John Hancock Insurance Company saw its naming rights expire in the year 2013, but despite this, the tower was still being called the John Hancock Center.

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

The Hearn Company who owns the tower had tried to find a buyer for the naming rights in May 2016 but this was unsuccessful. In 2018, the insurance company requested to have its name changed and all logos on the building to be removed.

That’s why the official name of the building was changed to its address and is now called875 North Michigan Avenue” since February 12, 2018.

John Hancock Center in the street
From street level / Bernt Rostad /

4. It’s a multi-purpose tower with offices and condos

The tower is occupied by some of the biggest companies in the United States and the world. Some notable tenants are Best Buy, Starbucks, and Etihad Airways.

One of the most fascinating John Hancock Center facts is that there are also over 700 condominiums and multiple restaurants.

John Hancock Center  and water tower
Next to the Water Tower / Chris6d /

5. It was one of the tallest buildings in the world upon completion

One of the most interesting John Hancock Center facts is that it was the second-tallest building in the world upon completion in the year 1969.

It has an architectural height of 1,128 feet (343.7 meters), which was well shorter than the Empire State Building in New York City which stands 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) tall and was the tallest building in the world at the time.

It has been surpassed by multiple skyscrapers since then and is now the 4th-tallest skyscraper in Chicago and the 9th-tallest in the United States as of November 2020.

John Hancock Center from Lake Michigan

6. It used to be home to the third-highest residence in the world

One of the more than 700 condominiums was once the third-highest residence in the world. Only a residence in Burj Khalifa and the Trump Tower in Chicago used to have a place to live located at a higher elevation above the ground.

There’s been a crazy residential skyscraper boom in New York City the last couple of years, so several residential skyscrapers have higher residences right now. This includes the Central Park Tower which is the highest residential skyscraper in the world as of November 2020.

John Hancock Center fun facts
The tower / Jeremy Atherton /

7. It was designed by one of the most renowned engineers in the world

The main architects and engineers of the project were Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a company involved in many of the tallest buildings in the world, as well as Bangladeshi-American engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan (1929-1982) who worked for the company at the time.

Khan is often referred to as “the father of tubular designs,” a feature that allowed the height of buildings to increase tremendously. The building is designed as a hollow cylinder which allows a much higher lateral pressure.

John Hancock Center tubular design
The tubular design / Antoine Taveneaux /

8. The building is a prime example of high-tech architecture

The building was a revolutionary skyscraper at the time and has become one of the prime examples of high-tech architecture also referred to as the “structural expressionist” style.

The X-braced exterior is part of the structural design and gives the building a distinctive appearance.

Sideview of the John Hancock Center
Sideview / Golbez /

9. The building suffered a crucial problem when 20 floors were completed

Regardless of the renowned company and engineers working on the project, an extremely crucial problem appeared when the tower had reached a height of about 20 floors.

The building was constructed using a revolutionary technique which consisted of pouring concrete in several stages. The stress on the soil was already as high at 20 floors as they expected it to be when the building reached the 100th floor!

The problem was eventually resolved and the building topped out on May 6, 1968.

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago skyline with the tower behind the wheel / Pixabay

10. A lethal accident was avoided by the Mayor of Chicago in 1981

On Veterans Day, November 11, 1981, an American climber named Dan Goodwin started climbing the tower to raise awareness for safety on skyscrapers. As he was climbing, firefighters from the Chicago Fire Department started attempting to knock him off the building by spraying him with their hoses.

It wasn’t until the Mayor of Chicago at the time, Jane Byrne, gave the green light that they let him climb to the top, possibly preventing a lethal accident!

John Hancock Center  interesting facts

11. The building has the fastest elevators in North America

One of the most amazing John Hancock Center facts is that it is home to some of the fastest elevators in the United States, and even in the entire Western Hemisphere!

These elevators travel at a speed of 1,800 feet/minute (20.5 miles per hour) and allow visitors to reach the 95th floor from the ground level in just 38 seconds!

John Hancock Center 94th floor
On the 94th floor / Golbez /

12. The observation deck offers amazing views of the Chicago area

One of the most popular features of the skyscraper is its observation deck called the “360 Chicago Observation Deck.” It’s located on the 94th floor and at a height of 1,030 feet (310 meters).

It competes with the observation deck of the Willis Tower which is located on the 103rd floor at an elevation of 1,353 feet (412.4 meters), making it the highest observation deck in the United States.

Regardless, the observation deck at the John Hancock Center offers some of the most amazing views over the city of Chicago and Lake Michigan, allowing visitors to see a distance of over 80 miles (130 kilometers) and into 4 states in all directions!

Hancock Center observation deck at night
Observation deck at night / Jamie McCaffrey /