It was in the early 1960’s that they planned on demolishing parts of Pullman to make way for industrial expansion especially between 111th and 115th. But Pullman residents including some of my own good friends, fought continuously to keep Pullman alive. They founded the Historic Pullman Foundation in 1973. Pullman was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971 and has received similar state and local designations. Through the years as I go travel back, I am amazed by the beauty of Pullmans original architecture.
The first planned industrial community for workers to work , live and worship with family was the Pullman Historic District south of Chicago; a unique community established by George Pullman, founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company. In 1880, the project began with housing built as red brick row houses including indoor plumbing and spacious accommodations that workers had not been accustomed though workers did have to pay rent. However, the panic of 1893 devastated the railroad industry causing lowered wages and rents that were not decreased. It was just last two years ago that President Obama designated the historic neighborhood as a national monument.
Pullman Foundation Center
On the site of the Arcade Building, this is a great place to begin your tour of Pullman. The center provides a video of the history and exhibits that include antiques from the Pullman Mansion that was located on Prairie Avenue as well as historic rail service items. You can grab a walking tour brochure or plan a guided tour that is available the first Sunday of the month and lasts for about 90 minutes.
Known for its luxury and elegance, the Hotel Florence, named after George Pullman’s daughter, was opened in 1881 and cost around $100,000 including $ 30,000 in furniture that included maroon plush velvet upholstery and fine mahogany. A veranda 16 feet wide and 268 feet long extends around the front of the building. When opened, the hotel included a gentlemen’s reading room, a billiard room, lunch room and saloon. The hotel is currently being renovated and for the ghost hunter, many have said that the hotel is haunted.
Take a stroll on 111th street between St. Lawrence and Langley to view the Executive homes that were located near the Pullman company plant. This row of homes was a showplace back in the day consisting of eight and nine rooms including several fireplaces and a basement in each. Even executives had to pay rent and the going rate was $28 to $50 a month.
Pullman and Arcade Parks
Designed by Pullman and hired architect, Solo S Berman, the Pullman Park was created for recreation and enjoying the green spaces that are not interrupted by structures. Another Park in the Pullman community is Arcade Park donated by George Pullman once again. Formal carpeted gardens graced the park across from the Arcade building that housed a post office, library and theatre but was demolished in 1926.
Pullman Factory Complex
Beside the administration building and clock tower, the factory building provided wonderful conditions for the working man. They were well lighted, ventilated with soft colors to provide a upbeat atmosphere, different from so many sweatshops of the era. The 1880 car manufacturing plant was a 700-foot long Queen Anne-influenced structure of brick with limestone accents. The Clock Tower and building was seriously damaged in 1998 by fire but was rebuilt in 2005 located at the northeast corner of 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
The sanctuary is unchanged being built in cherry wood with the original pews. The first tenants of the church were Presbyterian in 1887 but sold to the Methodists in 1907. The distinguished Steere and Turner organ is one of the very few manual track organs remaining in the US, the organ has had little repair over the last 100 years with the exception of being powered originally by hand bellows. The organ contains 1260 pipes with two manuals for the hands and can be a physical challenge to play, though a treasure for experienced musicians.
On the corner of 111th and Langley, the Gateway Garden was the size of 5 city lots with weeds and trash until the Historic Pullman Garden Club received a grant from Chicago Botanic Garden for development. Trees and spring bulbs were planted and now the garden offers spectacular color of various annuals, perennials and breathtaking curved seats of shrubbery ; a peaceful place to observe such beauty. The Garden Club hosts special events and tours throughout the spring and summer months.
A.Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum
Celebrating 75 years of the national first Black Labor Union, Randolph and the Pullman Porters made real impact in African-American union history. Pullman Porters were the best in railroad hospitality as they provided excellent service to passengers on Pullman’s luxury trains. In 1925, they established the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor union with Randolph as president. The museum provides a calendar of special events celebrating black history.
Complete your tour with a cozy seat at the Pullman Cafe, with fresh fruit and homemade lemon bars or dreamy bread pudding. The charming cafe also offers a Gotham Salad with toasted walnuts, a garlic sausage pizza, or just enjoy a cup of coffee with friendly staff and all the comforts of home. The ambience of the Pullman Cafe provides a wonderful conclusions to your trip to historic Pullman. The Pullman cafe is open daily at 112th and Lawrence Ave but currently is closed for winter but will be opening on in March of 2018.