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National Park Wednesday; Pullman National Monument

While visiting Chicago in 2019 I stopped for a visit at the recently designated Pullman National Monument.


Pullman National Monument was designated in 2015 and protects a segment of the Pullman neighborhood of South Chicago.  The Pullman neighbor of South Chicago is located just west of I-94 northbound Exit 66A.  Pullman was not originally part of Chicago but rather was built as a master planned company town built by Pullman Company.  The Pullman Car Company was a manufacturer of railroad cars from 1867 through 1987.  The Pullman neighborhood began construction along the Norfolk and Western Rail Line in 1880, by 1881 it was ready to be inhabited.  The Pullman Neighborhood is roughly bounded today by; I-94, US 12/US 20/95th Street, Cottage Grove Avenue and 115th Street.

The Pullman Company was established by George Pullman in 1862 as a builder of luxury railroad cars.  The Pullman Neighborhood was conceived after the 1877 Great Railroad Strike.  The Pullman Company had hoped by building a company town that it would attract better workers and remove them from the influence of Unions.  As stated above the Pullman Neighborhood was ready for occupancy by 1881 and it reached a population of approximately 8,600 by 1885.  Most residential structures in the Pullman Neighborhood consisted of Queen Anne styling design.  By 1893 the Pullman Company closed it's factory in Detroit and moved all it's production capacity to the Pullman Neighborhood.

The Pullman Neighborhood was built with a 6% profit margin in mind from residential dwellings but they never exceeded 4.5%.  In 1889 the Pullman Neighborhood was annexed by the City of Chicago but the company maintained control of property rentals.  In 1893 the Pullman Car Company lowered wages during a recession, rentals in the Pullman Neighborhood conversely remained flat.  In May of 1894 the Pullman Strike began in the Pullman Neighborhood began when 4,000 employees walked off the job.  The Pullman Strike escalated into a boycott by the American Railway Union against all trains pulling Pullman rail cars.  The strike and ensuing boycott of the Pullman Car Company escalated to Federal intervention which ultimately resulted in the deaths of 30 strikers.

In response to the Pullman Strike the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Car Company to sell off it's non-industrial holdings in the Pullman Neighborhood.  By 1907 the majority of residential property in the Pullman Neighborhood was sold but the Pullman Car Company maintained it's factory.  By the late 1960s rail car production in the Pullman Neighborhood essentially shuttered.

The Pullman Neighborhood has been surprisingly well preserved (granted much restoration work is currently underway).  The Hotel Florence is easily observed from Arcade Park on Forrestville Avenue.



The Hotel Florence was built in 1881 and was expanded in 1914.  The Hotel Florence displays Gothic Revival styling and is one of the most obvious buildings in Pullman Neighborhood.  The higher end rooms were located on the second floor of the building which progressively became more modest on the higher floors.








112th Street and Champlain Avenue converges into a square where the community general store was located.








Along 111th Street the ruins of the Pullman Car Company factory complex.  The Administration building Rear Erecting Shops can easily be seen looking north 111th Street.  The Administration Building is presently being restored as a new National Park visitor center.  There are several displays on 111th Street showing what the Pullman factory complex looked like in it's heyday.









Immediately west of the Hotel Florence was the location of the 1881 Pullman Depot along the Illinois Central Railroad.  The depot lasted into the 1910s when the Illinois Central Railroad was moved to a raised grade.  The under crossing of the Illinois Central Railroad on 111th Street features artwork with George Pullman.



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