Length: 1.5 miles
Where it is located: This walk takes you through the heart of the Pullman historic district in the community area of Pullman. It is Walk #12 on the Walks Location Map.
How we got there: We drove and parked at the Visitor Center. There is also street parking in the neighborhood. The Visitor Center provides detailed options for travel via car, bus and train.
Marge’s Comments: This was one of the first neighborhood walks I took after moving to the city in 2005. I was fascinated by the history of Pullman and knew that much of the “town” exists intact from when it was built in 1880 – 1884. Walking among the well preserved row homes once occupied by the workers of the Pullman factory helps you envision what life in Chicago may have been like over 100 years ago. The Visitor Center is a must see and greatly enhances your experience. The factory is a burned out hulk of a building and other sites are in shambles, but the future looks hopeful. The area has been gentrifying since the late 1900s, the district was declared a National Monument in 2015 and the commitment to restoration among community groups gives hope that the area will one day be restored fully.
The Pullman neighborhood is a spectacle: one part ruins and one part rising Phoenix. The ruins of the manufacturing complex that was absorbed by Chicago over a century ago is a humble reminder of man’s fate. In the adjoining neighborhood, once owned by the company, urban frontiersmen have made a delightful and safe haven for themselves. Down 111th Street and across I-94 the magnificent Harbourside Gold Course offers 36 holes, each with a breathtaking view of Chicago in the distance.
Before we get started:
This walk is very limited in that it takes place in the very tight area around the visitor center. If you are inclined to wander beyond it, please ask at the visitor center where to go, what to see and what is safe. They are very knowledgeable about the area and are very helpful.
There are guided walking tours of Pullman on the first Sunday of every month from May to October. In addition, there is an Annual Historic Pullman House Tour weekend, where homes and sites in Pullman are open to the public. This is fabulous and gives you a chance to see inside some beautifully restored houses as well as the Florence Hotel and other historical sites. Highly recommended! However, if neither of those options fit with your schedule, you will still enjoy going to the Historic Pullman Foundation Visitor Center, browsing their exhibits and taking the self-guided walking tour with the map they provide. This map is reproduced here and makes up our walk for Pullman.
Printable PDF of the Pullman Walk: Chicago Neighborhood Walk Pullman
Pullman Historic District
This walk covers only the Pullman Historic District, also known as the Pullman National Monument. It was the first model, planned industrial community in the United States. The district is significant for its historical origins in the Pullman Company, one of the most famous company towns in the United States, and scene of the violent 1894 Pullman strike.
Historic Pullman was built in the 1880s by George Pullman as workers’ housing for employees of his eponymous railroad car company, the Pullman Palace Car Company. He established behavioral standards that workers had to meet to live in the area and charged them rent.
Pullman’s architect, Solon Spencer Beman, was said to be extremely proud that he had met all the workers’ needs within the neighborhood he designed. The distinctive row houses were comfortable by the standards of the day and contained such amenities as indoor plumbing, gas and sewers.
During the depression that followed the Panic of 1893, demand for Pullman cars slackened. Despite cutbacks and wage reductions at the factory, the Company did not reduce rents for workers who lived in Pullman. Workers initiated the Pullman Strike in 1894 and it lasted 2 months, eventually leading to intervention by the U.S. Government and military.
After George Pullman died in 1897, the town was annexed by the city of Chicago and the city sold the houses to their occupants. Deindustrialization and migration to the suburbs led the area to fall into decline and a proposal to demolish the area to create new industrial development was defeated by the efforts of its residents.
Over the years local organizations and foundations have fought and won for recognition of Pullman as a Historic District and all the protections that brings.
From Wikipedia and Historic Pullman Foundation
Resources: Historic Pullman Foundation, Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, Pullman, the Town