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Sketching Chicago’s Tallest Building: The Sears Tower

The tallest building in Chicago once held the title of tallest building in the world for almost 25 years, this is the Sear Tower (now called the Willis Tower).

The tower was completed in 1974 and it tops out at 1,451 feet with 108 stories. It’s is now the third tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the 23rd tallest building in the world. This skyscraper is a giant amongst giants in the Chicago skyline and speaks to the importance is the Sears Company which, at the time, was the world’s largest retailer.

The Sears Tower dominating the buildings around it. The antenna towers are struck by lightening about 30 times a year! This photo was taken from the river during the architectural river cruise.

My destination in the tower was the 103 floor Skydeck, which gets more than 1.7 million visitors a year making it one of Chicago’s top tourist attractions. The Skydeck is the tallest observation deck in the United States.

I presented my Citypass and was given a 1:30 ticket to the top. I was corralled with other elevation-seekers, through lines, and mazes, and we finally came to the elevator. The elevator is one of the world’s fastest elevators, climbing 1,600 feet per minute. We reached the 103rd floor in just over a minute.

The view from the 103rd floor looking north. In the top right corner is “Big John”, the John Hancock Center, and beyond, Lake Michigan. I couldn’t have asked for a clearer and more beautiful day!
Taking a step out on “The Ledge”. Here my toes are pointing west. If you look at the silver skyscraper (address 222 S. Riverside Plaza) near the center of the photo, just behind it, but also partially obscured by it, is Chicago’s Union Station. This is the starting point and terminus of the California Zephyr.

After spending some time at elevation, I headed down to street level, had a margarita at one of Rick Bayless’ restaurants, and then looked for a good perspective to sketch the tallest building in Chicago. I found a location across the street at 311 South Wacker Park.

I had to lean back, in an almost a sleeping position to fit the tower into my sketchbook. I’ve had warbler neck before but this was the first time I ever had skyscaper neck!

My sketch of the tower, and I needed all of my panoramic sketchbook to capture it!