The Willis Tower-Past, Present and Future

  1974 – Laurie and family

 My visits to the former Sear’s Tower began the year the skydeck was open for viewing in 1974 when I was 7.  It opened on June 22 and we went that fall. It is on the 103rd floor. I don’t remember a lot, but my grandparents Norm and Barb Braton came along and grandpa filmed some of the view out of the North-facing windows. This is the Lake Point Tower Condominiums building on the right side of the photo. This photo is composed of two frames of the Super 8 film. It was color but it was inconsistent so I changed it to monochrome.  The reason why this  view is significant is because it was where Al’s Mom would be living in the late 70’s-early 80’s. As you see, there are no buildings around it YET.

See the video in its entirety.

Photographer Jack Bradley took this photo from the tower in 1975.

Here is another view of the city from the 1970’s from a postcard taken from that era-Phil Valzez.

Cost of admission in 1977, probably the same in 1974.  Found in this 1977 guide published by the Chicago Tribune.

The button was my souvenir from then.


10-17-03       29 years later…

Still the Sears Tower until 2009. This time, Al and I went alone. We got more photos this time.  They also had a very nice brochure on cardstock. For some reason I don’t have a lot of memories from this visit.

Prices that year.

A couple displays on the walls.

The Northwest view.

Revisiting the Lakepoint Condo viewpoint, much more built up now around it.  You can see another building going up nearby.

The clover leaf on the East-facing side.


1-30-18  15 Years later…

It took awhile but we finally made it back.  This time we did a day trip.  We took the Metra commuter train in from Harvard, IL at 5:47 AM. We learned in advance Tuesdays are often the slowest days and be there when they open the doors at 9:30 AM. I recommend monitoring the Skydeck Chicago-Willis Tower page on Tripadvisor. We knew the express elevators were not in use so waits might be longer.

They opened promptly at 10:00. We put our stuff through the security check then went to get our tickets, general admission.  I have no photos on this area since they were prohibited. Prices have really risen in 15 years. Of course, different ownership too.

The brochure as it looks now, no longer on cardstock, just glossy paper.

On your way to the elevator, they take your picture in front of a green screen with the option to buy before your exit or online. This is what it looks like, we didn’t get this one.

We got in line quick, aware of the growing crowd behind us.  You  can also see an informational 9-minute movie about the tower called “Reaching the Sky” before going up.

We were in the first elevator(s) up!  The views were just as incredible as we remembered, and there were more towers built or being built.

We revisit the Northwest view. That tall silver building in the middle is the Trump Tower. Construction began in 2005, completed in 2008.

And back to the Lake Point condo building.  A new skyscraper is going up on the left!

This view of the Chicago river has also built up.

The black building below left of here is the Ogilvie Transportation Center, where we rode the train into town.

The biggest change at the tower since 2003 is the installation of The Ledge™. It’s a reinforced glass “box” that extends outside beyond the other windows.  The view was incredible in there, you either feel like a bird or queasy. Al and I did it and felt fine! This picture was taken by another visitor. You are facing East.

Looking at another ledge from inside.

And down. You can see where we entered the building.

View of the ledge boxes from the ground, how tiny they look!

This is the same side as the clover leaf we saw in 2003. Let’s take a new look.

One of the most interesting buildings we saw was the MCC Jailhouse Skyscraper. Even the jails are tall here and saw a volleyball game played by the inmates on the roof.  It holds 681. This is on the West-facing side. Apparently it’s hard to see from the ground.

Other skyline views. This is the Chicago north side.  That cone-shaped object in the upper left corner is the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. It is 16 miles north of here.

We have been up in the tower for about two hours now, it was nearly 12:30.  It was time to go see more of Chicago since we had to be back on the train at 3:30. We could not resist getting a copy of the picture the staff took on the Ledge™.

Enjoy video of our visit!

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Blackstone? Tower future

The tower had been sold to the Blackstone Group in March of 2015, though you could not tell that yet on the outside. In the near future it will be undergoing some renovations to make it a more welcoming place to visitors. Perhaps in 7 or 8 years, we will be back to see this 3rd incarnation of Chicago’s largest office building.

One thought on “The Willis Tower-Past, Present and Future

  1. Pingback: 8 Hours in Chicago | Adventures in Travel

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