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Pullman Historical District
Pullman is something of a cross between a lower middle class neighborhood, and a preserved historical district. It is a living neighborhood that was originally a separate city built by the Pullman company. As you walk around you will see that the houses have a striking uniformity to them, because they were built by the company to be a kind of workers paradise. There never were any violent acts commited here during the infamous Pullman strikes.
At the time, the homes here were far superior than anything to be found in Chicago. they had central heating, clean, running water, and all the city grounds cared for by the company.
Walking tours are free and easily available, as is a small museum dedicated to the company and neighborhood.
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There are many different tour options for Pullman, we opted for a Sunday afternoon tour of the area with a guide from the Pullman Visitors Center at 11141 S. Cottage Grove Avenue and on a different weekend we went on the annual home tour. Both were excellent.
Pullman can also be visited self guided, you can pick up an excellent pamphlet from the visitors center that has a self guided tour..
This is one of the best day trips from the city
Technically, Pullman is part of Chicago but since there is a separate category for Pullman I have put all of my information and pictures on my Pullman page.
The Pullman Historic District
I'd been coming to Chicago off and on for twenty years before I traveled down into the South Side to see the Pullman Historic District. I'm grateful to Sambarnett for educating me about Pullman through conversations and his excellent VT pages on this neighborhood. If you are at all interested in Chicago - in American history in general - you definitely should not wait 20 years before visiting this historical gem of a neighborhood.
George Pullman (1831-1897) was one of those 19th century American millionnaires who did so much to create the character and social fabric of the United States - and thus of the rest of the world. (I'm also thinking of people like John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937), Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), J. Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), James J. Hill (1838-1916), Jay Gould (1836-1892) etc., etc., etc.) Money talks in the USA, and has for a long time.
Pullman's innovation was the development of the railway sleeping car. As an industrial magnate, he directed the creation of the Pullman District in the 1880s. It was a new and experimental industrial community, where all aspects of life were managed and controlled by a supposedly beneficient corporation. At least that was the ideal. Pullman flourished only for a short time; severe industrial strife tore the community apart in the 1890s, and in 1898 the company was forced to sell its non-industrial property here to outside interests.
More recently, the Pullman District has been the focus of considerable historic preservation interest. At least some of the character of the neighborhood has been, and is being, preserved. But there have been setbacks as well - most notably, a devastating fire that destroyed the old administrative center. And in-fighting and bickering between different stake-holder groups has made it very difficult to articulate a single unified vision for Pullman. I'll be curious to see what happens with the Pullman district in years to come.
For more on Pullman, please check my travelogue page on the area.
- Historical Travel
Pullman Historic District
The Pullman Historic District is located in southeast Chicago, approximately 14 miles from the downtown area.
You can take the Metra Train from downtown Chicago from the Randolph Street Station. Take the Metra Electric Line to the Pullman Station (111th street). Then, walk east (left) on 111th for about a block to the Hotel Florence. It takes under 30 minutes by train.
Built in 1880-94 for Pullman's Palace Car Company, Pullman was one of America's first planned model industrial towns. Pullman was designed by architect Solon S. Beman and landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett. These two combined the town's architecture with its parks, streets, and amenities to try to create an ideal working and living environment. In 1972 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Today, nearly 1,000 of the the town's original rowhouses and several major buildings and spaces are still intact or being restored.
George M. Pullman was the founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company. He purchased nearly 4,000 acres just west of Lake Calumet and surrounding the Illinois Central Railroad to build his town. The center of town was the railroad car business. A clock tower dominated the large industrial complex.
This town was quite modern for the times because they had indoor plumbing, sewage, and a gas works. An Arcade building and a Market were also built which rented space to PRIVATE BUSINESSES. In 1896, Pullman was given an award for the "World's Most Perfect Town". It was prosperous for 14 years until the depression of 1893-94. To keep his business open, Pullman reduced wages and hours which led to the famed Pullman Strike. After Pullman's death, the housing was sold and has been privately owned since then. Chicago annexed the town of Pullman in 1889. Today, 100's of Pullman houses undergo privately funded interior and exterior renovation and restoration.
It's a delight to walk the streets or to take a tour. Every October the famous Historic Pullman House Tour is made available when all the houses are open to the public.
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