People love lists. And people love to see if they know things other people don’t know. That’s why people on the internet click on links like “26 Shocking Tricks To Lower Car Insurance!”
We’ve run a couple of smart-lists, too. Five years ago we published 30 Things You Don’t Know About Block37, and it’s still getting clicks. Recently Bill Motchan’s article 10 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About The Rookery took off. So here’s another opportunity for you to pit your noggin against a list. It’s 20 Things You Probably Don’t Know About the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue). Or as they say on the interwebz, “20 Shocking Hancock Quirks You Must Know If You Live In Illinois!!!11!one!1!eleventy!!”
1It’s called “Center” and not “Tower” or “Building” because at one time the plan was to build two of them, but the Casino Club next door would not sell the developers the land they needed.
2The Hancock Center’s elevators are among the fastest in the world, and can take passengers from the ground floor to the 95th floor in 40 seconds.
3Each of the building’s X-shaped cross braces are 18-stories tall. They are notorious for creating oddly-shaped windows that affect the value of the real estate behind them because of the blocked view.
4According to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling, the building is so tall that the air at the top is six degrees cooler than the air at its base.
5A time capsule at the top of the building contains a piece of the Eiffel Tower.
6The Hancock Center’s plaza once had a public ice skating rink. Now it’s restaurant seating and a performing space for bands in the summer. In the 80’s there was a plan to enclose the whole thing, and the rest of the base of the building, in a giant box and make it into a mall.
7During Christmas, the owners of the Hancock Center used to hang a 20-foot-tall star between the building’s antennae.
8People live in the Hancock Center. That seems elementary to many people, but I’m continually surprised by the number of people I run into—even people who are from Chicago—who think it’s strictly an office building. When the building opened, it had 720 residences. Over time, people bought out their neighbors to make their homes larger, and now the total is around 702. Which means, statistically speaking, there are 1,825.2 people way up there.
9There is a private supermarket on the 44th floor of the building. It’s not just some little convenience store; it’s a full-blown outlet of the Potash grocery store chain with a deli and fresh fruits and veg section and places to sit and eat. Office workers can use it for lunch, but must enter and exit through the rear service entrance. Only residents are allowed to use the front door.
10The residential portion of this building is it’s own election precinct. People who live there don’t even have to leave the building to vote.
11People also don’t have to trudge out into the snow to mail a letter. The Hancock Center has its own Post Office. It also has its own FedEx Office, but so do many other buildings. There are also other shops and restaurants that are open to the public.
12On windy days, the building sways and the top half sounds like a pirate ship creaking in a storm. Though we have seen slight movements of liquid in glasses in residences in the 70-something and 80-something floors, reports of toilets sloshing over remain an urban legend, as far as we can determine.
13The building has a full-sized pool on the 44th floor. Not one of these cheapo plunge pools that most buildings get these days. It’s a real pool with a very deep deep end.
14The residential portion of this building is divided into two tiers. Floors 45 through 65 and floors 65 through 92 have separate elevators. Not surprisingly, living in the 65 through 92 tier is considered higher class than living merely on floors 45 through 64. The people on 65 are caught in the middle, but at least they can take whatever elevators they want since all elevators stop on 65.
15In the elevator lobby on each floor of the residential portion of the tower, if you push the wood paneling that lines the walls in just the right place, a large door will open revealing the emergency escape elevators.
16When you enter the Hancock Center’s enormous and fancy Delaware Street residential lobby (featured prominently in the Will Ferrell/Maggie Gyllenhaal film Stranger Than Fiction), you’re not really in the lobby yet. The actual lobby is way up on the 44th floor and has its own service desk, lounge waiting area and other amenities.
17The original Hancock residents were a litigious bunch, and the building opened right when condominiums started to become a reality. Because of this, many of the early precedents in Illinois real estate law arose from disputes in this building. One fight over pets went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.
18Many of the current and former residents of the Hancock center are judges and lawyers. But there have also been celebrities. Talk show host Jerry Springer lived in the Hancock Center for years. And comedian Chris Farley both lived and died there. So far we have not heard of anyone spotting Ghost Farley on the 60th floor trying to get to his van down by the river.
19Although the building was built to the latest technological standards when it opened, that was 40 years ago. Until recently, private washing machines were prohibited because the building’s plumbing couldn’t handle it. Air conditioning is supplied by old fashioned window A/C units hidden inside long, vented window seats. Some residences still have Bell System 505A phone jacks—the old, round 4-pin plugs. On the plus side, the residences have radiant heat available in the ceilings, a feature that is only now catching on in some places.
20The residential portion of this building has it’s own telephone network separate from the public network. Each home has a telephone by the door that can call any other home, or maintenance, or the front desk, or the management office. The system has voice mail and all the other latest features, but is isolated from the outside world.