Can you believe we’re at Part 3 in our Secret Floors in Buildings Across America series already? Who knew SO MANY secrets were hiding in buildings in the U.S.. We are in the business of secret rooms so we suspect that while we’ve discovered some cool things that were once a secret, there are plenty more that haven’t been, and likely won’t ever be, discovered.
This week we’re going to dive into what Brooklyn and Chicago have in common. If you’ve been following the series, then you can probably guess the link between the 2 is something secret. It’s an easy guess, I suppose, and also a correct one. Not only do they have secrets to reveal, but one is a reminder of controversial issues American history and the other is a tribute to the modern advancements of our society.
Let’s jump into the history first because it’s important to recognize where we’ve been so we can learn from it, and certainly so we can avoid repeating the terrible parts. We’re heading back to 1847 where a church was founded in Brooklyn under Pastor Henry Ward Beecher, a controversial figure himself who very strongly opposed slavery. Plymouth Church still stands today and you can take a tour of the area discovered beneath the sanctuary floor.
An entire secret floor with tunnels, archways and empty rooms was found, the entrance hidden behind the church’s organ. The church was known as “Grand Central Depot” in the Underground Railroad to those who were privy to the details of slaves moving around the country. Many of the church members are believed to have hidden slaves in their homes as well.
It isn’t clear how much people outside of the Underground Railroad network knew of Plymouth Church’s involvement, but Pastor Beecher was very vocal about his feelings on slavery. He strongly opposed it and went to great lengths to share that with anyone who would listen. It’s amazing how someone could so strongly oppose something – and share that openly – and manage to keep a secret floor under the church hidden and move high volumes of slaves through it. Talk about dedication to a cause!
Let’s head forward 100+ years to the 1960’s. That decade saw the construction of one of the tallest buildings in America – the John Hancock tower in Chicago. It stands at an incredible 99 stories tall and has a crown like arrangements of lights on the 99th floor. The Hancock tower is a modern marvel and includes the obligatory observation deck that all popular skyscrapers have, catering to tourists who enjoy the view from up high.
What’s particularly interesting about the Hancock tower is what is hiding near the middle of the building. Much of the lower floors are either commercial or office space, as you would expect in an urban building. But starting at floor 44, there are residential condos that residents of Chicago can either rent or buy. I imagine living in such a tall building would have perks and drawbacks. You definitely don’t want the elevator to be out of order!
Stores, offices and condos aren’t anything that out of the ordinary thought, right? What really caught our attention is the list of amenities that are accessible for residents only. On the 44th floor there is a pool and a 5000+ square foot, full-service grocery store, and a library along with a lounge for residents. The pool holds the record as the highest above-ground pool in the world. Definitely NOT your average above-ground pool!
You can find review online that report the prices at the Hancock tower grocery store are a bit higher than they are down the street, but it’s pretty hard to beat the convenience of shopping just a few floors beneath your apartment! The building is even said to have it’s own polling place when it’s election time.
If you’ve ever personally been to the Hancock Tower, you definitely weren’t given any information about the residential floors. If you guessed the building houses residential spaces then you’d be a step ahead, but not many people are aware of everything that is hiding on the 44th floor. Unless you live in the building, you likely won’t be able to gain access to them. If you ever do for some reason, definitely find a window and check out the view – it’s said to be pretty amazing from the 44th floor grocery store!