Chicago's onetime Sears Tower turns 48

The former Sears Tower, now Willis Tower Photo credit Getty Images

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Monday marks the 48th anniversary of the completion of the Willis Tower, which is Chicago’s tallest building -- and for 25 years, was the tallest building in the world.

It’s actually nine glass-and-steel towers bundled together to withstand the wind.

Susan Jacobson, the director of the Willis Tower tour for the Chicago Architecture Center, said the story of how those towers were configured by architect Bruce Graham and structural engineer Fazlur Khan sounds like urban legend.

But it’s true.

“They had a cigarette pack, and when you knock cigarettes out of a cigarette pack they come out at different levels, and that was their inspiration,” Jacobson said.

Of course, before it was the Willis Tower, it was originally the Sears Tower.

“The chairman of Sears is said to have remarked, ‘Being the largest retailer in the world, we thought we should have the largest headquarters in the world.’”

Jacobson has been giving tours of the tower for 11 years.

“It has a strength and a beauty all its own. I still like it.”