Ever been to Pullman?

Have you ever really walked around Pullman? I don’t mean speeding past it on the Metra train going south. In many ways, Pullman offers the potential for social life, sidewalk safety and casual public interaction that Jane Jacobs talked about so glowingly in The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Pullman was a completely planned model industrial town, built in the early 1880’s so that George M. Pullman could manufacture his luxury rail passenger cars. It represented a dramatic and pioneering departure for a major industrialist: housing and community facilities designed to produce contented and productive workers.

Pullman designed the complex as mixed-use, long before that name was ever dreamed up. It features a “Market Square” with a Market House at the center, surrounded by curved shopping Arcades.

A55994 Market Sq plan

There were apartments above the Arcades, but most of the housing is attached single family like the two shown below, encouraging casual encounters with neighbors and other passersby:

A101672 Workers' Housing

The 300-acre development included the Hotel Florence – a neighborhood nightlife destination now undergoing rehabilitation – a Casino Building; schools, library, theater, meeting hall and a church.

A59212 Methodist Church exterior

While the complex is big – extending from 103rd Street to 115th Street, between the Metra Electric tracks and Grove Avenue, it was designed to be walkable, so that Pullman’s factory workers could easily get to their jobs at the Palace Car Works building and other assembly shops.

In any event, an editorial in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune urges President Obama to use his executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to declare Pullman part of the National Park System.

It’s already a National Historic Landmark, and the latest federal report extolling its urbanity and importance is available here: http://www.pullmanil.org/nps.html

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Congresswoman Robin Kelly have already expressed their support for including Pullman as part of the National Park System, but the President’s executive authority means he can jump over some bureaucratic hoops. As the Tribune put it, “Designating Pullman a national park would make the Pullman campus a tourist and train enthusiasts’ destination and spur entrepreneurs to open businesses in the surrounding area.”

Doesn’t that sound like a cool neighborhood to walk around?

Black and white images courtesy of DePaul University Library.

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