Statue of Liberty Sold at Auction

While the above headline is obviously false, for the moment, I’ll bet you didn’t have a hard time believing it, did you? That pretty well sums up the current state of financial chaos in our country today.

Now let’s take a look at a true example. While it too is easy to believe, it’s still a little shocking to accept—but it’s true.

The tallest building in the U.S. is now owned by a London-based insurance broker and will soon be getting a new name. Chicago’s Sears Tower will be renamed the Willis Tower after the Willis Group Holdings Co.

Willis is moving five local offices and nearly 500 employees into the 110-story building. The move is expected to be completed by late summer. Willis will occupy more than 140,000 square feet at $14.50 a square foot, and the company will not be paying anything extra for the naming rights.

In 1969, Sears, Roebuck & Co. was the largest retailer in the world, with about 350,000 employees. Sears executives decided to consolidate the thousands of employees in offices distributed throughout the Chicago area into one building on the western edge of Chicago’s Loop.

The Sears Tower is a 110-story, 1,450.58-feet skyscraper in Chicago, Illinois. At the time of its completion in 1973, it was the tallest building in the world, surpassing the World Trade Center towers in New York. Currently, the Sears Tower is the tallest skyscraper in the United States and the fourth-tallest freestanding structure in the world.

The Sears Tower Skydeck observation deck opened on June 22, 1974, and is located on the 103rd floor of the tower. It is 1,353 feet above ground and is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Chicago.

I, like millions of other tourists, have taken my children to this famous landmark to experience a breathtaking view of Chicago, to experience how the building actually sways on a windy day, and to see far past the city to see Lake Michigan, and the states of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on a clear day. 1.3 million tourists visit the Skydeck annually.

In January 2009, the Skydeck began a major renovation, including the installation of window space which will extend approximately four feet out over Wacker Drive. The new installations will be boxes made entirely of glass, allowing visitors to look through the glass floor to the street 1,353 feet below. The idea is based on similar glass bottom attractions at the Grand Canyon and in Australia. The renovation is expected to be complete in April 2009.

In February of this year, the owners announced they are considering a plan to paint the structure silver. The paint would “rebrand” the building and highlight its advances in energy efficiency. The estimated cost is $50 million. Many will always remember the towering black structure regardless of the paint job.

The top of the Sears Tower is the highest point in Illinois. The tip of its highest antenna is 1,730 feet above street level or 2,325 feet above sea level. The antennas atop the Sears Tower are struck by lightning an average of 650-675 times per year.

Money can do a lot—both good and bad. We’re all seeing that today more than ever before. It’s changing the name of the tallest building in the U.S., but only on paper and maybe a few signs here and there. In the hearts of billions of locals and tourists around the world, it will always be the Sears Tower in our hearts, minds and memories.

By the way, this is just one of the many American landmarks that are disappearing on a regular basis. It’s been happening for quite some time, and we simply don’t seem to recognize it. Watch this column for additional examples in the near future.

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

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