"You mean the Sears Tower?"
On the day that the nation's tallest building was officially renamed Willis Tower, at least a few Chicagoans were still in the dark -- or, at the least, denial -- about the skyscraper's new identity. Residents, visitor guides and even some taxi drivers responded with blank stares when asked for directions to the Willis Tower.
"We don't have Willis Tower. There is no Willis Tower here," said Momansor Hassan, 43, a cabdriver for 19 years.
Not until Thursday, that is. The new signs and flags outside the 1,450-foot skyscraper were hard to dismiss as crowds gathered to witness the building's first day as Willis. The skyscraper, which opened in 1973 as the then-world's-tallest building, was named after Sears Roebuck and Co. It remained Sears Tower even after Sears relocated to Hoffman Estates in 1992.
Millennium Park Visitor Service worker Jean Aza, 40, had never heard of Willis Tower as of Thursday. After scanning a map, he gave up. "This building over here is the Cultural Center. Go over and ask them," he suggested.
A baffled Simbiat Soaga, 21, who works a concession stand in Millennium Park, had to flag down a tourist for help in locating the Willis Tower.
"I don't know of any Willis Tower in Chicago to be honest," she said. "Let me ask someone."
Lucky for her, the tourist knew of the name change.
Corderia Cook, 18, knew where Willis Tower was. The Calumet Park summer camp leader confidently pointed up at Two Prudential Plaza and said, "The middle one right here. With the triangles."
Her charges, a group of 5- and 6-year-olds, never heard of Willis Tower either.
Taxi driver Frank Boateng, 31, had just one question when told to go to Willis Tower. "Do you have the address?" he asked.
Six of the eight cabbies polled knew what the Willis was.
Others acknowledged the building's new moniker brought back memories of another name change: Marshall Field's to Macy's.
"The new Sears Tower," said Sue Becker, 53, who splits her time between Chicago and St. Charles. "They still call it Marshall Field's, so it's always going to be Sears Tower."
Just don't tell that to Willis Group Holding, the London-based insurance brokerage that acquired the naming rights for 15 years. The company is leasing three floors and moving in 500 employees.
The move earned a warm welcome from Mayor Richard Daley. Asked if he would call the building "Big Willie," as Chairman and Chief Executive Joe Plumeri has joked, Daley said, " 'Big Willie,' Willis Tower, yeah. You know why? Because they stepped up to the plate."
Stan Ferstadt, 69, of Milwaukee knew exactly where Willis Tower was when asked. He works for the sign company that changed the iconic landmark's name.
When asked what he would call it, he didn't hesitate.
thats nice. i'll still call it the sears tower until i die :)