Renewed Concern About the John Hancock Center’s Name

John Hancock Center - Chicago, Illinois - February, 2010 - 001a

Probably the only angle left that you haven’t seen the Hancock Center photographed from

John Hancock Center - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2010 - 019a

Few other buildings can inspire skyscraper envy with a simple elevator button panel

It’s been a rough decade or so for Chicago’s identity.  As the city is becoming more and more homogenized, we’ve lost all of our big local banks (don’t be fooled by “Harris Bank,” it’s actually Bank of Montreal).  The one remaining downtown department store is owned by a company in Cincinnati.  And even the tallest building in the city has the name of a London insurance company on it.

That’s why it was no surprise back in March when the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the John Hancock Center’s name might be up for sale.  The Hearn Company is working on a project to completely revamp the quasi-public plaza in front of the building to turn it into a commercial space.  Part of that plan may or may not include changing the name of Big John.

Not that long ago it would have been unthinkable.  But then we all know what happened down at 233 South Wacker Drive in 2009.

Willis Tower - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2010 - 002a

Oh, the humanity.

Now comes word that the other John Hancock building, the John Hancock Tower in Boston has changed its name to 200 Clarendon.  The reason?  Because the John Hancock company is no longer there.  The same can be said of Chicago’s John Hancock Center, which the insurance and financial conglomerate exited years ago, leaving no one to defend the name.

Hopefully we’ll learn more about the naming plans in a couple of weeks when the Hearn Company holds a public meeting about the new retail redevelopment at the tower.

John Hancock Center - Chicago, Illinois - March, 2010 - 003a

Coming soon: Yet another Michigan Avenue retail experience

Until then, we can only hope that a home-grown Chicago company might possibly be in line for the naming rights.  The Morningstar Monolith?  The Walgreens Thermometer? The Argo Tea Arcology?

Location: 875 North Michigan Avenue, Gold Coast


Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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