Sights to See - The Sears Tower Now the Willis Tower
For many years the world's tallest skyscraper, the Willis Tower, although many Chicago residents still call it the
Sears Tower, is really nine buildings combined into one massive structure. Completed in
1974, it was erected to consolidate offices housing 6,500 Sears employees from all over the city.
Located at Adams Street and Wacker Drive, the Willis Tower is ideal for both corporate users and financial services firms.
With easy access to the famed Chicago 'L', also known as the "El", the
elevated train and Chicago Transit Authority
buses, it would have been taller but the Federal Aviation Authority was concerned about plane safety on routes to and from O'Hare.
The buildings are comprised of a set of "bundled tubes" in which each tower supports others. Owing to the
strong winds in Chicago,
produced by its proximity to Lake Michigan, any tall building has to
take careful account of stresses produced by wind shear. With its special design, the perimeter
can shed winds and reduce sway, while the interior provides structural support.
A series of setbacks above the 50th floor give the structure its unique look, along with the black glass that
provides both light and temperature control and an impressive facade. As a result, it forms a
significant addition to an already magnificent skyline in one of America's premier cities.
Visitors to the Willis Tower can take the elevator to the Skydeck to see the view at the
103rd floor. The entrance is on Jackson Boulevard and 1.5 million visitors pass through it every year.
First step on the tour after you get your tickets is a video that explains the history and unique construction of
the building, very interesting all on its own. Then it's on to the SkyDeck
elevators where you are whisked to the top. Elevators are equipped with 50-inch flat screen monitors with
views of the Earth from the Space Shuttle, compliments of NASA.
On a clear day visitors can see for dozens of miles and, thanks to the
high winds, the sky is often clear. The view is entangled by other
structures nearby, but you'll see not only the other buildings but
parts of Michigan,
stretching into the distance.
There are interactive computer displays that give you tons of information about the history of Chicago and its world famous
buildings. Cut-out windows allow the kids to see as well as the adults. High-powered telescopes provide for a closer look at some of the other
sights of the city.
The Tower also offers several restaurants and dining options to choose from including Starbucks,
Corner Bakery, French Accent, Market Creations, Dunkin Donuts, The Met Club Cafe, Venice Cafe and
Salseria Grill & Cantina.
The surrounding space at the base of the tower is somewhat plain, but
the view looking up is spectacular. In order to relieve the blandness
of the plaza, a 4-story atrium was erected on Wacker Drive that is
worth a look.
Lines can be very long and there are often long waits not only for
tickets but elevators in both directions. Be sure to allow plenty of
time to get to the top or bottom. Aim for a Sunday morning or other
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