a couple of summers a go (the one before I moved to San Diego, in fact), I didn’t have what one could constitute “full-time” employment, or even “consistent” employment. something to do with the fact that in two and a half months time I’d be pulling up roots and heading to the warmer climes of sunny San Diego for grad school. no job = no money = no grand traveling adventures. or does it? perhaps I couldn’t coordinate something on same scale that I normally dream of, but, I concluded, no money certainly mustn’t mean no travel, let alone not trying something new!
to begin, I took the bus from Madison to downtown Chicago, thus beginning my experiment at the whims of public transportation (or a public-private hybrid, if you will). after some sweltering outdoor activities in the morning, I met up with a college friend and, since I’d only ever been up to the observation deck in the Sears Tower before, decided to head farther up Michigan Ave to the Hancock Building (which is also slightly cheaper).
the Hancock Building is the 4th tallest skyscraper in Chicago, a city know by some as the birthplace of skyscrapers. located on the site of Cap Streeter‘s 19th century steamboat shanty (in brief — Cap Streeter lied, cheated, and forged documents to make money off of the expansion of Chicago into Lake Michigan; landfill dumping produced an additional 186 acres of land extending east of where Michigan Ave is today), construction of the building posed some unique challenges. namely, caissons had to be sunk into 10ft holes drilled 190ft into bedrock to ensure stability of the foundation. the design also all but eliminated the need for internal support beams — the famous X-bracing seen above serves as a kind of skin to hold the structure up. it took 5 million man-hours to construct the building, which was completed in 1970 and, at the time, was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City. the building stands 100 storys and, until recently, could claim the highest residence in the world (it’s recently lost out to the Trump Tower in Chicago and the Burj Khalifa). because of the mixed-use plan for the building, with residences on the top levels, the structure is wedge-shaped (which also makes it look taller than it actually is). Chris Farley lived on the 60th floor and was found dead there in 1997 (his one-time neighbor, Jerry Springer, has since relocated to the 91st floor). including the height from antennas, the the Hancock Tower is listed at 1,500 feet tall, making it the 5th tallest building in the world (following the Burj Khalifa, Sears Tower, Shanghai World Financial Tower, and Taipei 101).
the observation deck is on the 94th floor of the building and a restaurant occupies the 95th floor (currently the Signature Room). elevators will take you to the deck at a speed of 20.5 mph. the weather in Chicago on the day that I visited (in late July) was hot and humid. from the top of the Hancock building, you could see loads of people out on the beaches along Lake Shore Drive, and clumping up together in boat parties north of Navy Pier. we also caught a glimpse of people lounging beside a rooftop pool of one of the residential buildings to the southeast of the Hancock Building. wonder if those people think about how many tourists will spot them on their lounge chairs when they head up to the roof for a session in the sun …