Big John: The John Hancock Center

After I had visited the very touristy Skydeck on the 103 floor of the Sears Tower, I headed north of the river and went to the 93 floor of the less touristy John Hancock Center.

When the building was completed on May 6, 1968, it was the second tallest building after the Empire State Building. It is now the fifth tallest building in Chicago and the thirteenth in the United States.

This building also has a personal twist. A mother of one of the my former students not only grew up in Chicago but grew up on the 62nd floor of the John Hancock Center! She would swim at the world’s highest indoor swimming pool on the 45th floor. For some reason, it never occurred to me that people actually lived in these skyscrapers. I always thought of them as just office towers. The docent on my architecture river cruise noted that Big John was one of the first residential towers ever built.

The John Hancock Center from Michigan Avenue. My neck hurts just looking at this image!

I entered the tower on the Michigan Avenue side and secured a ticket to the 93 floor. The elevator was not as pacy as the Sears Tower but I arrived at 360 Chicago in due time.

The view from the 93 floor was astonishing. Partly because it seems like you are right on the shore of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan. You can walk around the 93 floor and have views from all the cardinal points of the compass. But first I needed a sketching seat and a drink.

Looking down from the east side of the tower.

I found both at the Cloud Bar on the northern facing part of the tower. Here you certainly pay for the view. At elevation, drinks on my flight to Chicago where cheaper!

I took my bubbling concoction to a table and sketched the shoreline below me and the skyscrapers to my left. Out on the lake where sailboats and motor craft and a steady stream of traffic heading north on Lake Shore Drive.

$21 for Windex in a glass. It was smoking and bubbling like something in Doctor Frankenstein’s lab. But it was delicious!
My Cloud Bar sketch from the 93rd floor. From the view looking north. I chose to only paint in Lake Michigan.

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