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Willis Tower: Chicago’s icon

A black skyscraper with 2 tall antennas: the Willis Tower defines the Chicago skyline like no other building. This structure has 110 floors and stands an impressive 1,450 feet high. The view from the Skydeck is phenomenal. On a clear day you can see as far as 4 different states.

When the tower was inaugurated in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world. It was initially known as the Sears Tower and thus named after the company that built it: Sears Roebuck and Company. Even when the company moved out in the late 1980s, the tower was still known as the Sears Tower. In 2009 however, the tower was renamed the Willis Tower, due to a lease agreement with the Willis Group Holdings.

The Willis Tower dominates the Chicago skyline
The Willis Tower dominates the Chicago skyline


The Sears dream

The 1960s were the golden days for Sears Roebuck and Co. At the time, the company was the world's largest retail producer and bursting at the seams. Therefore, Sears wanted its headquarters in downtown Chicago where they could accommodate 13,000 of their approximately 350,000 employees. The first plans were fairly modest, but the architects and brokers convinced Sears to build a tall tower with apartments on the upper floors.
In 1970, the company announced that it was building the tallest tower in the world. The Sears Tower was a little over 80 feet taller than the World Trade Center in New York City. For decades, the tower maintained its height record, but in 1998 it was surpassed by the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Today, the new One World Trade Center in New York is taller than the Willis Tower – thanks to the lightning conductor on the roof – and consequently, the 1 WTC is also the tallest building in the United States.
The Willis Tower seen from downtown Chicago
The view looking down from The Ledge

A glass cube above the city

With approximately 25,000 visitors a day, the Willis Tower is one of Chicago's top attractions. A high-speed lift whisks visitors in no time to the 103rd floor where the Skydeck offers sweeping views over the entire city. With luck, you will be able to see 4 different states: Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and of course Illinois itself. The Ledge is truly spectacular: 2 glass cubes protrude 4.3 feet out from the façade of the tower. The bottom of the Ledge is also made of glass, allowing you to look straight down from a dizzying height; the people on the street far below hardly seem any bigger than tiny Lego figures.