History & Culture

Ca. 1885, view of Lake Vista with the Administration Building to the left, the Hotel Florence in the rear center, and the Arcade Building to the right.
Ca. 1885, view of Lake Vista with the Administration Building to the left, the Hotel Florence in the rear center, and the Arcade Building to the right.

Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

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 factory 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.

The National Park Service works with many partners to administer the site, and most homes are private residences.
Administration Clock Tower and Front Erecting Shops

The manufacturing center of Pullman, the Administration Clock Tower and factory complex were unusually ornate industrial buildings. They were designed to sit in a park-like setting, overlooking the artificial Lake Vista, creating a tableau visible from the passenger station. Like Pullman sleeping cars, Lake Vista was intended to be both aesthetically pleasing and practical, and served as the cooling reservoir for the huge Corliss steam engine. The Front Erecting Shops, several hundred feet long, were well-lit and ventilated with a series of skylights. The main facade, mirrored in the lake, faced the Illinois Central tracks, and thus was one of the first buildings a visitor would see.

Hotel Florence

Named for George Pullman's eldest daughter, the hotel opened on November 1, 1881. Intended to showcase the town to visitors, the hotel featured fifty rooms and the only saloon in the Pullman community. Built at a cost of $130,000, it grew to 23,000 square feet (2,100 m2) after an addition was constructed in 1914. A suite was kept for Pullman on the second floor for factory visits. Each floor presented a different class of service, with the most opulent rooms on the second floor and more modest accommodations on the fourth.

The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum

The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is located at 10406 Maryland Avenue, in northern Pullman. Their mission is to "promote, honor and celebrate the legacy of A. Philip Randolph, Pullman Porters, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and contributions made by African-Americans to America’s labor movement; with a significant focus on the African American Railroad Employee." The permanent collection displays exhibits on the Pullman Company, A. Philip Randolph, Pullman porters, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the Great Migration, and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Founded in 1925, The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP), founded by A. Philip Randolph, was the first labor organization led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Porters made up forty-four percent of the Pullman workforce, making Pullman the nation's largest employer of African Americans. A landmark agreement was reached between the two parties in 1937, becoming the first major labor agreement between a company and an African American union. A. Philip Randolph worked tirelessly for civil rights, and was the head of the 1963 March on Washington, at which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Last updated: November 1, 2020

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