Willis Tower: A Tribute to 50 Years

“She towers so high,” were the memorable words sung by a chorus of electrical workers as the final white beam with over 12,000 signatures was lifted into the sky during the legendary topping out ceremony for Sears Tower on May 3, 1973 — exactly 50 years ago. The conditions were cold, but clear as thousands of eager visitors waited in anticipation while steelworkers more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding streets began bolting the beam into place.

Since that time, Sears Tower has become the destination for millions of world tourists and a daily center of work and commerce for thousands of Chicagoans. Sears Tower has also served as a frequent backdrop to numerous groundbreaking films from Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) to The Fugitive (1993), it has been scaled by such daring acrobats as Spider Dan (1981) and Alain "Spiderman" Robert (1998), it has been a highlight of media controversy in response to the CTBUH (1997), it has been a center of preparations for making Chicago HDTV capable (2000), it has been placed on the city's list of focal points for protecting against terrorism (2003), it was cited as a prospective headquarters for the U.S. Olympic Committee (2008) and for United Airlines (2009), and most recently it underwent a $670 million redevelopment complete with public cafes, lounges, and a rooftop terrace (2021).

Sears Tower truly is both a distinguished landmark and a principal engineering accomplishment of the modern age — and in following the human quest to reach ever higher, Sears Tower continues to astound and marvel its visitors to this day. Please join me in commemorating an exciting half-century of reaching for the skies!

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