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Willis Tower / The Skydeck and The Ledge

One of the glass balconies on Willis Tower / Observation Deck
The LEDGE — One of the glass balconies on Willis Tower / Observation Deck
Standing on the glass balcony of the Willis Tower, Chicago
Standing on the glass balcony of the Willis Tower, Chicago
Willis Tower Entrance
Willis Tower Entrance
Chicago skyline with Willis Tower dominating the skyscraper scenery
Chicago skyline with Willis Tower dominating the skyscraper scenery

Willis Tower’s former name is Sears Tower when it was the headquarter for Sears.

Until 1997/98 the Willis Tower / Sears Tower was (with its 442 meters) the highest building in the world. The Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur surpassed the height of the Sears Tower and claimed the title. There was a long discussion if the antennas of the Sears Tower should count or not.
In 2009 it was announced that the Sears Tower would be renamed to Willis Tower.

Including antennas it is actually 527 meters high.

Sears, at the time of building the skyscraper in 1973 the largest retailer in the world, was the eponym of the building.
In 2009 the London-based Willis Group Holdings became main tenant and got the right to rename the building to Willis Tower (announced March 12, 2009).


The architect Bruce Graham was inspired by an open pack of cigarettes where some cigarettes were coming out. The Sears Tower (Willis Tower) consists of 9 cylinders: two o fthem have 49 stories, two of them reach the top height of 110 and the rest has 65 stories.

The Skydeck / The Ledge — the visitor attraction with amazing views high above Chicago

What will I see from the Skydeck? You’ll see the best view and best overview of Chicago. At 1,353 feet (412 meters), the Skydeck is the highest observatory in Chicago.
The view is amazing! You can see 40 – 50 miles (65 – 80 kilometers) on a clear day. Imagine seeing Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, just by walking around the Skydeck.

The Ledge is the name of the attached glass balconies to allow visitors “to step out” a little bit which is an amazing experience.

Official Website: Skydeck Chicago at Willis Tower | Willis Tower Glass Ledge (theskydeck.com)


How the Sears Tower was Named

The “Sears Tower” name carries an 85-year-old company tradition. The building was meant to serve as the corporate headquarters for Sears, Roebuck and Co. The original tower is a 12-story brick historical landmark in Chicago’s Horman and Arthington complex, which housed Sears’ first retail store.

The Sears Tower’s Unique Architectural Design

Sears Tower is uniquely designed through a series of stepbacks that allow a wide base to support the narrower upper tower. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the building. Beyond its behemoth size, Sears Tower sets architectural standards, as well. The perimeter of the structure is covered with an electrically heated walkway for winter snow and ice removal. The building employs framed-tube construction, which supports the outside of the building while allowing for column-free space in the interior.
Additionally, it has one of the most complete life safety systems ever devised for a high-rise building, to protect against fires and other incidents. It was designed to withstand Chicago’s high winds and the unlikely event of an earthquake, by closely spacing the columns that support the structure.

Greeting Visitors with the Famous Calder Sculpture

Famous sculptor Alexander Calder created a special moving mural called “Universe” for the lobby of the Sears Tower. It is a 55 feet high and 33 feet wide composition of many different moving parts. Calder himself turned the switch to activate the sculpture on October 25, 1974.

Historical Milestones

In addition to the building’s rich nearly 30-year history, the Sears Tower is a must-see and popular destination for high-profile foreign dignitaries and celebrities.

August 1970
Groundbreaking on construction of Sears Tower
May 1973
Construction is completed
June 1974
Skydeck officially opens
February 1984 Broadcast Antennas added to structure
June 1985
Sears Tower undergoes revitalization project, receives new atrium
June 1986
“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” movie release adds to Sears Tower fame
April 2000
Unveiling of multi-million dollar renovation project

Address Willis Tower:
233 S. Wacker Dr. (Entrance Jackson Blvd.)

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