By Pamela S. Meyers
Recently, the Pullman District in Chicago made the news when the historical factory and residential district was designated a national monument after an announcement was made of nearly $8 million in local donations to support site projects.
In 1858, George Pullman manufactured the first railroad sleeping car, and Pullman’s company soon expanded by building quite opulent sleeping cars for well-heeled passengers who had to travel long distances to conduct business or to travel for pleasure.
|Typical Row Homes in Pullman|
|Clock Tower Administration Building|
The development was Pullman’s utopian dream as he saw it as a way to keep his employees protected and provided for. Included in the rent was gas, water and complete sanitary facilities, along with garbage pickup. Front and back yards provided personal outdoor privacy, while parks and open lands gave opportunity to socialize with neighbors. Maintenance of the residences was included in the rental prices.
By 1892, 20,000 people called Pullman home. The same year Market Hall, which housed many shops, burned to the ground, and the following year, a depression hit the country. Pullman lowered employees’ wages, but did not lower their rents. The employees called for a strike which turned deadly when 13 people were killed in riots. President Cleveland had to send federal troops in to restore peace.
Pullman died in 1897 and the following year, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered that land not used for factories must be sold. It wasn’t until 1907 that all the residential properties were sold.
Years later, in 1960, the Pullman district escaped demolition for an industrial complex when the Pullman Civic Organization was formed.
|Pullman's own manion on Chicago's historic Prairie Avenue (not in Pullman).|
Nowadays the Pullman District, which was annexed to the city of Chicago in the early 1900s, is mostly restored and many tourists visit it every year. With it’s latest designation as a national monument, it is sure to remain a wonderful example of one of the first planned communities—an original “factory town.”
|A current neighborhood in Pullman.|
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A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love, and Love Will Find a Way, contemporary romantic mysteries, and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other midwestern spots for new story ideas.