Pullman: Undisputed national significance

Pullman honors the unique stories of railroads in America’s industrial past, labor history - including formation of the first African-American labor union, urban planning and development of the country’s first model industrial town.

"Nestled in a bucolic setting minutes west of the Bishop Ford Freeway on Chicago’s far South Side, is the Historic Pullman District. Much of the neighborhood appears to be relatively untouched since the late 19th century when George Pullman set his mind to creating his ideal company town.

"Pullman’s development is a potent American story, albeit with a short-lived history. In 1879, Pullman bought 4,000 acres to build his town and launch the Pullman Palace Car Company. The next year, the first residents moved in. Over a few short years, Pullman provided his workers with housing, markets, a library, churches and entertainment creating an “ideal” community for his workers. But during the economic 'Panic of 1893,' Pullman reduced wages without reducing rents, precipitating the famous Pullman strike of 1894 that disrupted rail travel across the country. In 1898, just 18 years after Pullman bought the land in what is now Chicago’s south side, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Company to sell all property not used for industry, including the homes and storefronts that comprised the town. Pullman made its mark on history with the strike that created our Labor Day holiday, the first African American labor union, and the country’s first model industrial town." (Economic Engine: Pullman)

"The recent history of Pullman has been marked by strong preservation advocacy and action in the face of destruction or partial destruction. In 1960, when the neighborhood was slated to be turned into an industrial park, residents reactivated in the Pullman Civic Organization (PCO) to prevent destruction of the community and promote its history. The district became a National Historic Landmark District in 1970. The southern portion of the Pullman neighborhood was designated a Chicago city landmark district in 1972, and north district of Pullman was designated a Chicago city landmark district in 1993. The two districts were administratively joined and renamed the Pullman District by the city in 1999. From 1972-75, the non-profit Historic Pullman Foundation (HPF) purchased and safeguarded some of Pullman’s prominent historic assets. With guidance and some financial support of the PCO, many homeowners have preserved and restored their historic homes. The Pullman Civic Organization began during WWII as a civil defense organization.

"The Administration Building and North Factory Wing were largely vacant and deteriorating following the factory closure, which was mostly complete by 1957. The now-destroyed south wing of the factory and Rear Erecting Shops were in use by various steel concerns. The Administration and Factory Complex and the Hotel Florence were acquired by the State of Illinois in 1991, after which they were established as a state historic site. Before the Administration and Factory Complex buildings could be utilized, a 1998 arson fire claimed the south factory wing and reduced much of the remainder to a shell. Funds were secured to rehabilitate the fire-ravaged structures and reconstruct the clocktower. Development taking place at the time of this survey includes a renovation to the Hotel Florence, renovation of housing, and the replacement of the Chicago Family Health Center on 115th Street, which provides services for the uninsured and medically underserved in the community. To the east of the district, Pullman Park, a mixed use residential and commercial development, is under construction." (NPS Reconnaissance Survey, 2013)


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