PULLMAN HISTORIC DISTRICT
George Pullman was born in Brocton, New York and studied engineering. By the 1850s, Chicago was emerging as a major city, but faced sanitation issues. Pullman designed a method to raise buildings, which allowed better drainage. This innovation led Pullman to great financial success. With this new-found wealth, Pullman founded the Pullman Palace Car Company to manufacture sleeping cars in 1867. Through a focus on luxury and customer comfort, Pullman gained a large market share in the railroad car sector. The expensive cars were typically rented out to railroads with trained employees, many of whom were former house slaves recently freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
Pullman was an early advocate of employee welfare in a city that was a hotbed for labor unrest in the 1870s. When a new factory was required to meet demand, Pullman was presented with an opportunity to integrate employee betterment with manufacturing efficiency. As land values were skyrocketing in the city proper, Pullman purchased 4,000 acres south of Chicago.
Solon Spencer Beman was commissioned with the design of the company town buildings, including 1,300 housing units. Nathaniel Franklin Barrett was tasked with the layout and landscape design. Former Chicago superintendent of sewage Benzette Williams developed the utilities and drainage system. The project began in early 1880 and the first factory buildings were nearly completed by fall. Housing was mainly built as red brick row-houses and featured indoor plumbing. The spacious accommodations were a significant improvement over the tenements that workers were used to. Architecture predominately evoked the Queen Anne style with Romanesque details.
The town was designed with the hope that other companies would want to relocate there. However, only Pullman subsidiaries and suppliers ever shared the campus. Additional housing was built north of the factories after the Union Foundry and Allen Paper Car Company moved their operations there.
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