Today, the Sears name has disappeared from a piece of history. The iconic skyscraper that it once called home. The Sears Tower is now officially the Willis Tower.
Willis is a British-based insurance agency that bought the naming rights some months ago. Since then, Chicagoans have been subjected to so much media coverage and vitriol surrounding the name change, the actual event is pretty anti-climatic. It's just another opportunity to get nostalgic.
I've lived in Chicago all my life. In the city proper -- never a suburb -- and went to Chicago public schools.
And for true Chicagoans, once something has a name it's nearly impossible to get people to think of it as anything else. We're just old-school like that.
I still call the AON Center by its original title, the Standard Oil building, never mind that it was officially named Amoco in between those two. University of Illinois, Chicago was called Circle Campus when I was a kid. The expressways here have names that we still use more than the highway numbers, and I only just recently began calling the various El lines by their now official colors, versus by where the train line ends. You can reliably identify a Chicago native by their recognition of these terms.
The Chicago Tribune today published an editorial asserting the Willis name will win our hearts. To which I say, Bah. It won't, but neither does it matter. The removal of the Sears name is another lost piece of Chicago as it sells itself to the highest bidder. And illustrates the fading retail glory the city once had.
Montgomery Ward headquarters has been made into condos and retail property. Marshall Field's is unrecognizable and there are those who mourn it bitterly. And now the continent's tallest building has been stripped of the Sears name. Does it really matter what we call it?
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