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Willis Tower And 311 South Wacker Drive Chicago
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© Christine Till
Willis Tower (popular name: Sears Tower), a skyscraper on 233 South Wacker Drive in the city of Chicago, Illinois, has been the tallest building in North America since 1973, surpassing both the former World Trade Center and Empire State Building. The tower was commissioned by the Sears, Roebuck and Company, and the entire construction of the tower was paid out of the pocket of the Sears Company - the final costs were estimated to be around $150 million. Currently, Willis Tower - nicknamed 'The Big Store' - is the second tallest building in the world. At 1,729 feet, it is superceded only by the United Arab Emirates' Burj Khalifa in structural height. Since its completion in 1974, it still remains the tallest skyscraper in the western hemisphere.
In 1969, Sears and Roebuck was the largest retailer in the world and had some 350,000 employees on payroll. Company executives decided to consolidate their numerous employees, that were distributed all over Chicago, into one structure on the edge of the Loop neighborhood. Construction of the tower began in August of 1970, with the building reaching its maximum height on May 3rd, 1973. Once it was completed, the structure had 108 stories according to traditional counting standards (109 stories with the main roof, and 110 with the mechanical penthouse). 25 years later Sears chose to move its headquarters to a more human-scale suburban setting and sold the building in 1994. In March 2009, London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings agreed to lease a portion of the building, and obtained the building's naming rights. On July 16, 2009, the building was officially renamed the Willis Tower.
From the ground to the top floor, Sears tower measures 1,450.58 feet. The building further increased in height in February of 1982, when two television antennas were added, making its total height 1,730 feet tall. The antennas get struck by lightning on average of 650-675 times per year.
The observation deck of the Willis Tower opened on June 22nd, 1974 and is on the 103rd floor of the tower. From this vantage point, visitors can view the plains of Illinois, across Lake Michigan, into Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on a clear day. The deck is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago and draws some 1.3 million visitors every year.
Clad in bronze-tinted glass and stainless aluminum, rising with determination yet elegance from the depths of its grand foundations to the tips of its massive spires, luring tourists in daze, housing a workforce of thousands, the Big Store represents an era in Chicago of optimism and opportunity that will not be forgotten.
January 29th, 2013
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