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Pullman National Historic Site 6/19/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I arose in South Bend, Indiana and after our morning preparations, checked out of the hotel and to Bob Evans Restaurant for a excellent breakfast. I then drove us to the Pullman National Historical Park in Chicago and parked on a side street.

History & Culture Information

Pullman National Historical Park (originally Pullman National Monument) was designated by President Barack Obama on February 19, 2015, making it the first National Park Service unit in Chicago. The park tells the story of one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States, the sleeping car magnate who helped create it and the workers who lived there. The district is significant for its influence on urban planning and design, as well as its role in American labor history, including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott.

Located in what is now the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago, the historic district includes the site of the former Pullman Palace Car Works shops and administration building, the Hotel Florence (named after George Pullman's eldest child), Arcade Park and the Greenstone Church (currently the Greenstone United Methodist Church). Also within the district is the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, named for the prominent leader A. Philip Randolph, which recognizes and explores African American labor history.

Our Visit

We started with Hotel Florence but stopped at a display board first.

The first of the many display boards on the grounds.

Pullman Hotel Florence built in 1881 to a design by architect Solon Spencer Beman. George Pullman approved the design and construction commenced on the new 50-room Hotel Florence to rent rooms to supply representatives for his company. It cost $100,000 to build and was named the hotel after George's oldest daughter, Florence Pullman. The most luxurious suite in the hotel, the Pullman Suite, was designed for the personal use of George Pullman and his family. The hotel could also offer first-class accommodations to railroad CEOs who came to Pullman to do business with the firm. The hotel opened to guests on November 1, 1881.

George Pullman died in 1897. The town of Pullman was divested from the company and the Hotel Florence was sold in 1898 into new owenership. The Hotel Florence built a major addition, the Annex, circa 1914. The Historic Pullman Foundation purchased the hotel in 1975 to save it from demolition; the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (now the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) took the title in 1991.

Pullman National Monument and State Historic Site Park sign.

Pullman locomotive erecting shop. A timeline of the Pullman Works starts in 1879 but Pullman had already made a fortune jacking up buildings in downtown Chicago when the streets were raised so that an effective sewer system could be built. But after all of the buildings were jacked up, he was out of a job. So he started making railroad cars and providing sleeper service. It was approximately between the Illinois Central tracks and Calumet Lake.

The eastern side of the old Pullman car erecting shops. Sixteen bays where the cars went through an assembly line type process. As the specific work was done in bay, the car was rolled out then moved horizontally 20 feet, via a dolly system to the next bay, and into the adjoining bay. The process was repeated until a completed car, minus a paint job, sat in the last bay. Painting was done at a separate paint shop, as the dust in the car erecting shops was pretty bad at times.

Pullman Adminstration Clock Tower Building also serves as the National Park Service Pullman Visitor Center. Built in 1880, the Administration Clock Tower Building formed the central mass of a monumental structure seven hundred feet long. As the manufacturing center of Pullman, the Administration and Factory Complex was an unusually ornate industrial building designed to sit in a park-like setting. The structure overlooked the artificial Lake Vista, which was a cooling reservoir for the Corliss steam engine. The main facade faced the Illinois Central tracks, and thus was one of the first buildings a visitor would see. The Pullman Company stood as both a real and symbolic expression of the great economic power of the railroad industry, it was essential the building display a strong sense of formal ordering.

In 1991, the State of Illinois purchased the Administration Clock Tower Building to comprise the Illinois Pullman State Historic Site. The 12.66-acre site is at the northeast corner of 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, directly north of the Hotel Florence.

After standing for 117 years as a Pullman landmark, the Administration Clock Tower Building was seriously damaged by a fire set by an arsonist on December 1, 1998. The tower and clock were rebuilt and installed on site in late 2005. The district was named a National Monument (now National Historical Park) on February 19, 2015.

Pullman transfer table and front locomotive erecting shop. This mechanical device replaces a roundhouse. Cars could be rolled out from one bay onto the platform which then could move the car to another bay.

We then started our driving tour around Pullman.

Pullman Market Hall, one of the most unique small-scale urban spaces in America. It features four curving, colonnaded two-story brick apartment buildings that define the edges of the square with the limestone-arched Market Hall at the center.

The original Market Hall was built in 1881 in the Queen Anne style as part of the town layout. Market Hall contained 16 stalls leased to private businesses that sold fresh meats, produce and other goods. It was destroyed by fire in 1892. Solon Beman quickly designed a new building on the existing foundation that featured 12 stores on the first floor, and a banquet hall and meeting rooms on the upper two floors.

The colonnaded apartments were built with the new Market Hall in 1893. Each building contains three apartments, one on the first floor and two on the upper floor. The Pullman Company used these apartments during the Columbian Exposition of 1893 to house guests visiting the fair in nearby Hyde Park.

In the late 1930's, the upper floors were removed, reducing it to a one-story structure and brick walls replaced the original glass side skylights. In 1973, another fire gutted what remained. The Historic Pullman Foundation purchased Market Hall in 1974 to save it from demolition. Over the years, several studies were commissioned to help determine appropriate directions for the restoration and reuse of this distinctive space.

In 1996, the City of Chicago authorized a grant to begin the first phase of the renovation of the Market Hall. In 1999, work began on removal of the roof, first floor, interior fire damage and excess debris in the basement. HPF subsequently received a grant from the state's Illinois First program to assist in the continue restoration of this wonderful Classical-Romanesque building.

Pullman Greenstone Church was built in 1882 as part of the original plan for the town of Pullman. The church was designed by Solon S. Beman and features a unique facade of green stone quarried in Pennsylvania and seats 600. With the exception of the chancel arrangements, the sanctuary has remained unchanged since the 1880's. The cherrywood that comprises the altar and pews, over 90 percent of the stained glass windows, and the manual-tracker pipe organ are original to the building.

The Greenstone Church was built to "complete the scene" of the town, but George Pullman, having family roots in the Universalist Church, thought the building would be a church that was "for all to unite in union with the body". However, it was quickly realized that each denomination wanted to worship in their tradition, their own language, with their own pastors. In addition to this complication, the church building sat empty for over two years due to the high monthly rent. Small religious societies met in rooms rented at the Market Hall, the Arcade or the Casino buildings. The rent of $300 per month for the church and $65 for the parsonage to the south end of the building were deemed excessive. Eventually, the rent was lowered and the Presbyterians were the first tenants of the church, having leased the building by 1887.

Following a much-publicized antitrust controversy, the Pullman Company was forced to sell off most of the town, beginning in 1898, the year following George Pullman's death. A Methodist congregation soon afterwards purchased the building and it has remained in their care since.

Pullman Arcade Park boasted an interior planting scheme that was ultra-formal -- thousands of annuals, all trimmed to the same height by Pullman company staff and arranged to form geometric patterns. Surrounding this formal interior was a "naturalistic instinct" enclosure - dense, but not tall so as not to obstruct the view plantings of native wildflowers, shrubs and a few small trees.

After years of neglect, Arcade Park was built to its current configuration in the 1970's and is loosely based on the original layout. However the original planting scheme was not replicated, because the upkeep of a large formal garden was too costly.

The center section was hollowed out so that it could be flooded in the winter for ice skating; unfortunately, the ice skating idea never panned out. The flower beds, echoing the original configuration, are now maintained by the all-volunteer Historic Pullman Garden Club and managed by the Chicago Park District.

Arcade Park originally sat adjacent to the Arcade Building, which was a large, four-story shopping and office center. The Arcade also held a 1,000-seat theater, a subscription-only library (books donated by George Pullman) and the Pullman Bank. The Arcade Building was demolished in 1926 after falling into disrepair.

We then drove over to the Pullman stables.

Pullman stables. The Pullman Company required that all horses and carriages be kept in the stables building. Carved, wooden horse heads set into the facade made the purpose of the building unmistakable. The location of the facility kept clean-up tasks to a minimum. At the turn of the century, a popular Sunday afternoon activity was to rent a carriage and team to tour the countryside and enjoy a family picnic. The cost at that time was $3.00 per day.

Mural at the Pullman National Historic Site.

Pullman front locomotive erecting shop. The Erecting, Glass and Metal Shops of the Pullman complex, built in 1880 became known for their importance to American architecture and culture.

Another view of the transfer table.

Historic Pullman Fire Station built in 1894 in a Romanesque style. It replaced the earlier firehouse, located across from the Arcade Building in southern Pullman. The tall, narrow tower was used to survey the area for any signs of fire nearby, and also to hang and dry fire hoses. It is the last surviving firehouse in Chicago with a hose-drying watchtower.

Throughout its history, the building has been operated by the Chicago Fire Department and used as a storage facility by the Sherwin-Williams Company. Today, the historic fire station is owned by the City of Chicago, and is not in use.

We moved the car over to the Pullman Visitor Center parking lot so we could take the Metra Electric train to Chicago and walked over to the station.

A large mural adorns both sides of the overpass' wall; here is President Obama on the south wall across.

George Pullman on the north wall.

Metra Electric Pullman 111th Station sign on the wall of the shelter building. We waited for our Metra Electric train, took our Chicago River Architecture boat tour and then returned here.

On our way back to the car, we passed through the other side of the overpass to see the rest of the mural.

Solon Benan, the Pullman's house architect.

More of this mural.

The George Pullman portion.

Two views of the Pullman sign.

The Pullman Adminstration Clock Tower Building, which is also the National Park Service Pullman Visitor Center.

Welcome to Pullman display board.

Welcome to Pullman National Monuement and State Historic Site.

Image and Reality display board

The Town of Pullman display board.

People-powered display board.

From Wood to Steel display board.

Pullman locomotive erecting shop.

The four star Chicago Flag. Top white band: This white stripe stands locally for the North Side, nationally for the Atlantic Coast, and terrestrially for the countries east and north of the United States. White center band (more than twice as wide as one of the blue bands): This white bar stands locally for the West Side, nationally for the Great Central Plain dominated by Chicago, and terrestrially for the United States, in which the two stars signify Chicago is the second city, as well as the second city of the New World. Bottom white band: This white stripe stands locally for the South Side, nationally for the Pacific Coast and terrestrially for the countries west and south of the United States.

Upper blue band: This blue stripe stands locally for the North Branch of the Chicago River, nationally for the Allegheny Mountains and terrestrially for the Atlantic Ocean and Great Lakes. This stripe, with the other stripe and the two stars (on the original flag), indicates that Chicago is the fourth city of the globe. Lower blue band: This blue stripe stands locally for the South Branch of the (Chicago) River, nationally for the Rockies and Sierras and terrestrially for the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The first star represents the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The second star represents the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Star three is for the Century of Progress international Exposition 1933 and the fourth star commemorates Fort Dearborn and its points represent the historical development of the Chicago territory: French domination 1693, English domination 1693-1763, Territory of the State of Virginia 1763-78, Part of Northwest Territory, 1778-98, Part of Indiana territory 1798-1802 and Illinois statehood, 1818.

I then drove us to the Best Western Plus in South Holland for the night.