Track 3: For Power or For Passage: Re-envisioning Historic Industrial and Transportation Infrastructure
3 - Rehabilitation of the Pullman National Monument's Administration Building and Grounds: Industry, Integrity, and Interpretation
Monday, September 24
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM
In 1880 George Pullman purchased 4000 acres of land, about 15 miles south of downtown Chicago, on which he would build his Railroad Company. Together with architect Solon Beman and landscape architect Nathan Barrett, they would create an entire town including factories, worker housing, formal parks, markets, a hotel, and even its own brickyard. Within 3 years the population of Pullman would top 8,000 and the production of Pullman cars would continue for 75 years.
Since 1969 300 acres have been recognized as the Pullman National Register Historic District. The area is also an Illinois State Historic Site (1970), a Chicago Historic District (1972), and in 2015 President Obama designated the Pullman National Monument. The original Administration Building, located at the center of the factory grounds, will become the National Monument’s Visitor Center. This iconic clock-tower building was nearly destroyed by fire in 1998 and is part of a complex that tells a fascinating story of industry, architecture, urban planning, social history, engineering, labor practices, and race relations.
When ground broke on the factory town, Mr Pullman was already a pioneer in the transportation industry with his Pullman Palace Sleeping Car; leased to railroad operators complete with a staff to serve travelling passengers. These Pullman Porters, mostly former slaves, established the first all-black union in 1925 and were instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Pullman worker housing included amenities such as gas service, running water, and ‘municipal’ sanitation which Mr. Pullman felt were essential in retaining a loyal workforce. But even these above-average accommodations could not ease tensions when an economic downturn led to lower wages, but not lower rents, causing the Pullman Strike of 1894.
Within the industrial complex of Pullman many pioneering advancements were made including early assembly line processes and the use of the Corliss Centennial Engine originally displayed at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. After George Pullman’s death in 1897 the “Company Town” was dissolved as non-industrial landholdings were sold, including the homes. But under the direction of Robert Todd Lincoln, the Pullman Car Company continued to evolve in the transportation industry until the late 1950s when the Chicago factory closed for good.
The Visitor’s Center project team includes the National Park Service, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Foundation, and the Design Team with resources in historic architecture, planning, cultural history, environmental engineering, landscape design, archaeology, exhibit design, and community development. Charged with uncovering, interpreting, and celebrating such a varied and important history, the team has made use of extensive archival documentation, evaluation of extant structure and industrial remnants, and carefully considered the history beneath the earth through archaeological test pits and Ground Penetrating Radar.
- Understand the varied, complex, and intriguing history of the Pullman Car Company and its planning, industrial, and labor practices through 75 years.
- Appreciate the challenges of interpreting multiple layers of national history in the areas of industry, transportation, labor, social history, and urban planning that are intertwined at one site in Chicago.
- Recognize the value of even the smallest pieces of architecture and archaeology in illustrating the history of the Pullman National Historic Site and in supporting rehabilitation and interpretation decisions.
- Celebrate the efforts that led to Pullman’s recognition in a National Monument and support the continued efforts to preserve this unique icon of our National history.