John Hancock Building

History of John Hancock Building Architecture 360 Observation Deck Your Home's Value

The John Hancock Center (875 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60611, is a soaring 100-story skyscraper standing at a height of 1,128 feet (344 meters). It was officially renamed 875 North Michigan Avenue in 2018 and is located in the renowned Magnificent Mile district. This iconic structure, designed by Peruvian-American chief designer Bruce Graham and Bangladeshi-American structural engineer Fazlur Rahman Khan of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), was once the second-tallest building globally when it completed construction on May 6, 1968, second only to the Empire State Building. At that time, it held the title of the tallest building in Chicago. Today, it ranks as the fifth-tallest building in Chicago (Willis Tower is the Tallest Building in Chicago) and the thirteenth-tallest in the United States. When measuring to the top of its antenna masts, its total height reaches 1,500 feet (457 meters).

The John Hancock Center houses various offices and restaurants and boasts approximately 700 condominiums. At the time of its completion, it also featured the world's highest residence. The building was named after the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company, a key developer and original tenant, which, in turn, was named in honor of U.S. Founding Father John Hancock. In 2018, John Hancock Insurance, which had long departed from the building, requested the removal of its name, prompting the owner to seek a new naming rights deal.

*The 44th Floor has the world's highest indoor pool (Learn More about Pools in the United States)

Visitors to the 95th-floor restaurant can enjoy stunning views of Chicago and Lake Michigan. The observatory, known as 360 Chicago, offers a 360° panorama of the city, spanning up to four states and a distance of over 80 miles (130 kilometers). Notably, 360 Chicago features TILT, a moving platform that tilts visitors over the skyscraper's edge at a 30-degree angle, a full bar with local selections, Chicago's sole open-air Sky Walk, and interactive high-definition touchscreens in six languages.


In the late 1960s, the project that would become the world's second-tallest building at its opening was conceived and owned by Jerry Wolman. John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company provided the financing for the tower's construction. However, construction was temporarily halted in 1967 due to an engineering flaw in the innovative concrete pouring method, discovered when the building was 20 stories high. Engineers observed the same soil settlements for the first 20 stories as they had anticipated for the entire 99-story structure. This necessitated a pause in development, causing a financial strain. A similar situation occurred during the construction of 111 West Wacker, previously known as the Waterview Tower. John Hancock eventually took over the project while retaining the original design, architect, engineer, and primary contractor. The building's first resident, Ray Heckla, the original building engineer responsible for the residential floors from 44 to 92, moved in with his family in April 1969, even before the building's completion.

In the realm of cinema, the 1988 film "Poltergeist III" was set at the John Hancock Center and filmed in early 1987.

21st Century:

In 2006, the non-residential portion of the building was sold by Shorenstein Properties, based in San Francisco, for $385 million to a joint venture between Golub & Company in Chicago and the Whitehall Street Real Estate Funds. Shorenstein Properties had acquired the building in 1998 for $220 million. Golub later defaulted on its debt, leading Deutsche Bank to acquire the building in 2012. The Deutsche Bank and NorthStar Realty Finance joint venture paid approximately $325 million for the building's debt in 2012 after Shorenstein Properties defaulted on $400 million in loans. The observation deck was sold to Montparnasse 56 Group, headquartered in Paris, for a sum between $35 million and $45 million in July 2012. During the same month, Prudential Real Estate Investors acquired the retail and restaurant space for nearly $142 million. In November 2012, an affiliate of Boston-based American Tower Corp paid $70 million for the building's antennas. In June 2013, a partnership between Hearn Co. in Chicago, Mount Kellett Capital Management L.P. in New York, and Lynd Co. in San Antonio closed on the acquisition of 875 North Michigan Avenue's 856,000 square feet of office space and 710-car parking deck. While the exact price was not disclosed, it was estimated to be around $145 million, marking the final step in the piecemeal sale process. In May 2016, Hearn Co. announced its search for buyers interested in acquiring the building's naming rights along with the potential for signage rights.

The annual "Hustle up the Hancock" event is a stair climb race that covers 94 floors, from the Michigan Avenue level to the observation deck. It takes place on the last Sunday of February and benefits the Respiratory Health Association. As of 2007, the record time was 9 minutes and 30 seconds.

The John Hancock Center serves as the transmitter for Univision's WGBO-DT (channel 66), while all other full-power television stations in Chicago broadcast from the Willis Tower. The City Colleges of Chicago's WYCC (channel 20) used the building as its transmitter location until November 2017, when it ceased operations as part of the 2016 FCC spectrum auction.

On February 12, 2018, John Hancock Insurance requested the immediate removal of its name and logos from the building's interior. This request was made because John Hancock had not held a naming-rights deal with the skyscraper's owners since 2013. Consequently, the building's name was changed to its street address, 875 North Michigan Avenue.


The John Hancock Center, constructed in 1974, is a renowned example of structural expressionist architecture. Its iconic X-braced exterior design is a testament to the fact that the building's skin plays a vital role in its structural integrity. This unique design, part of the "tubular system," was instrumental in achieving its record height, ensuring stability during wind and seismic forces, and offering flexibility in interior layout. These innovative features have made 875 North Michigan Avenue an architectural icon. The creative minds behind this masterpiece were Bangladeshi-American structural civil engineer Fazlur Khan and chief architect Bruce Graham.

The interior of the building underwent a significant renovation in 1995, incorporating travertine, black granite, and textured limestone surfaces into the lobby. The elliptical-shaped plaza surrounding the building provides a welcoming public space adorned with seasonal plantings and a 12-foot (3.7 m) waterfall. At night, a band of white lights at the pinnacle of the building illuminates the Chicago skyline and changes colors to commemorate various events, such as green and red during the Christmas season or matching the colors of Chicago-area sports teams during playoff runs.

The John Hancock Center has received accolades for its distinctive architectural style, including the Distinguished Architects Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in May 1999. In recognition of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, it was chosen as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois) and featured in USA Today Travel magazine as one of AIA Illinois' top 25 Must-See Places.

The building's design incorporates X-bracing on its exterior facade, showcasing its structural expressionist style and its innovative "tubular system" that contributes to its stability and adaptability. This architectural marvel, designed by Bangladeshi-American structural engineer Fazlur Khan and chief architect Bruce Graham, was the world's second-tallest building upon completion in 1968.

In 1995, a significant interior renovation introduced elements like travertine, black granite, and textured limestone to enhance the lobby's aesthetics. The elliptical-shaped plaza surrounding the building serves as a welcoming public space with seasonal plantings and a 12-foot (3.7 meters) waterfall. At night, a band of white lights at the building's pinnacle becomes a prominent feature on the Chicago skyline, changing colors to mark special occasions, such as green and red during the Christmas season or the colors of local sports teams during playoff runs.

The John Hancock Center has garnered recognition for its architectural excellence, including the prestigious Distinguished Architects Twenty-five Year Award from the American Institute of Architects in May 1999. In honor of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, it was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois chapter (AIA Illinois) and featured in USA Today Travel magazine's list of AIA Illinois' top 25 Must-See Places.

360 Chicago Observation Deck:

The 360 Chicago Observation Deck, located on the 94th floor of 875 North Michigan Avenue, offers breathtaking panoramic views. Positioned 1,030 feet (310 meters) above street level, the entrance is accessible from the building's concourse level, adjacent to Michigan Avenue. Since 2014, this observatory has been independently owned and operated by the Montparnasse 56 Group from Paris, France. The observatory boasts the fastest elevators in the Western Hemisphere, reaching a top speed of 1,800 feet per minute (20.5 mph).

In terms of floor space, the observatory surpasses its competitor, the Skydeck at the Willis Tower. It features a full bar named BAR 94, offering a selection of local beers and spirits from Revolution Brewing and KOVAL Distillery. Additionally, the observatory includes an open-air "skydeck" area.

The observatory's Otis-manufactured elevators travel a remarkable 96 floors at a top speed of 1,800 feet per minute (20 mph or 9.1 m/s), making them some of the fastest in North America. It takes just 38 seconds to reach the 95th floor if the elevators could maintain their top speed for the entire ascent. For several years during the winter season, the observatory delighted visitors with the "world's highest skating rink," featuring an artificial ice rink installed seasonally. At one point in its history, the observation deck had a mascot named Seemore Miles.

In the summer of 2014, 360 Chicago introduced the TILT attraction. TILT, available for an additional fee, features a set of floor-to-ceiling windows that slowly tilt outward to a 30° angle, providing a thrilling perspective of the city.

General images of the 360 Chicago Observation Deck showcase its breathtaking views, while images of the TILT Thrill Ride and the SkyWalk highlight some of the observatory's unique features.

95th Floor Restaurant and 96th Floor Bar:

Apart from its observation deck, 875 Michigan Avenue also houses a restaurant on its 95th floor and a bar on its 96th floor. Previously known as The 95th before 1993, the restaurant underwent a transformation into the Signature Room, with the accompanying bar on the 96th floor known as the Signature Lounge from 1993 until 2023. The naming paid homage to the famous signature of early American figure John Hancock.

The restaurant was celebrated for its upscale atmosphere, scenic views, and enforced dress code for patrons. It received numerous awards for its excellence. In April 2023, both the restaurant and bar were listed for sale. In September 2023, the Signature Room ceased operations abruptly, citing "severe economic hardship" attributed to the impact of the earlier COVID-19 pandemic.