The Tallest Rock (5-3-1973)

Chicago put one over on New York today.  The Sears Tower was topped off.  Our city had the tallest building in the world.

Sears had maintained its main office in North Lawndale for decades.  During the late 1960s the company decided to build new headquarters.  After looking in the suburbs, they chose a downtown site.

The original plan was to build two separate buildings.  That was changed to a single structure, 1,454 feet high.  As board chairman Gordon Metcalf explained, “Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.”

Construction began in 1970.  The foundations were dug, and the steel frame began to rise slowly over Wacker Drive.  On the way up, the Sears Tower passed the former record holder, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

Today’s ceremony was almost postponed.  The weather was raw and windy.  The final girder contained the signatures of the 12,000 people who had worked on the project.  The construction chief was worried that the 2,500-pound beam might smash into some windows on the way up.

But a few hundred people had already gathered at the site.  Cardinal Cody and Mayor Richard J. Daley had come to give their blessings.  The girder was hoisted and set in place.

That was the signal.  A chorus of electrical workers burst into song, serenading the crowd with such lyrics as:

“She towers so high,

Just scraping the sky.

She’s The Tallest Rock.”

Speeches followed from various dignitaries.  Then the mayor brought the proceedings to a close.  “I want to thank [Sears] for staying in Chicago when so many are leaving,” he said.  “Sears, Roebuck—a name that means everything to the people of America—has no equal in the business world of Chicago.”

Everyone went home happy.  The Sears Tower lifted the spirits of Chicago.  Having the World’s Tallest Building helped the city get through some tough years.

Still, records are made to be broken.  The Sears Tower kept is title until 1996.  Today all the sky-piercing structures are going up in Asia.

Meanwhile, in 1992, Sears again moved its headquarters, this time to Hoffman Estates.  The tall building on Wacker Drive is now known as the Willis Tower.

—30—

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1 Response to “The Tallest Rock (5-3-1973)”


  1. 1 Garry May 3, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Sears paid cash for the building, $150 million, no mortgage.
    The steel parts of the building, called trees, were pre-assembled at American Bridge in Gary & then trucked in during the night & then raised up during the day. I think they built a floor every three days or so.


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