“This weekend, Chicagoans will get their first opportunity to explore the new visitor center at Pullman National Monument on the city’s far south side. The attraction opens within the restored Pullman Clock Tower and Administration building at 11001 S. Cottage Grove Avenue and serves as the focal point for the 12-acre monument campus.
“Designed in the late-Victorian style by Solon S. Beman, the clocktower was the architectural centerpiece of the community created in the 1880s by industrialist George Pullman to build his eponymous rail sleeper cars. Although envisioned as a master-planned utopia where employees would both live and work, the town was at the center of numerous labor and civil rights struggles including a bloody 1894 strike that brought the nation’s railway system to its knees.
“The monument’s master developer is the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. The restoration of the Clock Tower and Administration building was overseen by architecture firm Bauer Latoza Studio and included “new plumbing/fire protection, HVAC, telecom, and electrical systems, and exterior building repairs,” according to general contractor GMA Construction Group. The visitor center is located on the building’s ground floor. Work on the upper floors is ongoing.
“Taking place on September 4 and 5, the Labor Day weekend grand opening celebration features guided tours of the visitor center, the nearby historic Hotel Florence, and three historic Pullman-built rail cars at the 111th Street Metra Station.
“Supporters of the monument hope the facility will be an economic driver for the Pullman community, which has seen encouraging signs of growth in recent years.” (Koziarz, Urbanize Chicago, 9/2/21)
Commissioned by George Pullman to produce his legendary Pullman Palace Car Company sleeping cars, starting in 1880 architect Solon S. Beman designed the first model, planned industrial town in the United States. The Pullman Historic District is significant and one of the most beautiful industrial landscapes in the country. Pullman is one of the most famous company towns and the backdrop for the violent 1894 Pullman labor strike. The Pullman Historic District was designated a National Monument on February 19, 2015 which makes it a part of the National Park System.
Built in 1880, the Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building designed by architect Solon S. Beman was the central hub of activity among the extensive manufacturing buildings. Unlike most industrial and manufacturing buildings of that period (and today), the Administration and Factory Complex was a beautifully designed, highly ornate collection of buildings designed within a park-like setting. The Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building was built on the shores of Lake Vista, an artificial lake which also served as a cooling reservoir for the enormous Corliss steam engine. As visitors would approach Pullman by rail, the first building a visitor would see was the glorious primary facade of the Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building. George Pullman built a powerful profitable corporation, and also built a beautiful planned community.
The preservation advocacy efforts for Pullman have spanned decades. In 1960, residents organized to form the Pullman Civic Organization (PCO) to advocate for Pullman’s preservation. By 1969, Pullman was added to the National Register of Historic Places and in 1970 was declared a National Historic Landmark. By 1972, the southern portion of Pullman was designated as a Chicago Landmark followed by the northern portion in 1993. A significant milestone occurred in 1991, when the State of Illinois purchased the Administration Building, the Factory Complex, and Hotel Florence and created a state historic site. Then tragedy struck on December 1, 1998, when after surviving years of neglect and deferred maintenance, the Clock Tower and Administration was targeted by an arsonist and the building suffered extensive damage from the ensuing fire. Portions of the building were reconstructed in the following years.
Preservation Chicago has been working with community and civic partners and organizations for many years on this effort and we are delighted that the long envision grand opening has finally happened! We’re also hoping for a complementary Chicago Landmark District in the neighboring Roseland community to include “the Pullman Lands” and to drive economic development on South Michigan Avenue in Roseland.
Pullman Grand Opening Preview – Labor Day 2021 (1:15)
The Pullman National Monument Opens This Weekend, Highlighting The Long History Of The Far South Side Neighborhood; Over Labor Day Weekend, visitors can learn about the history of Pullman and see artifacts from the defunct rail car company, Maia McDonald, Block Club Chicago, 9/3/21
Visitor center opens at Pullman National Monument; The visitor center is inside the former administration building of the Pullman Palace Car Co. And for Labor Day weekend, Pullman-built railcars also will be on display, Cheyanne M. Daniels, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/3/21
A Community Celebrates As Pullman National Monument Opens To The Public “We want it to be open, we want people to learn — when the press isn’t here, we still need to be inviting,” local historian Shermann “Dilla” Thomas said, Maxwell Evans and Colin Boyle, Block Club Chicago, 9/7/21
On this Labor Day, a visit to Pullman reminds us that the fight for working people goes on; The seeds planted by the Pullman strikers in 1894 would bear fruit to this day, including the right to a living wage, the eight-hour workday and the creation of Labor Day, CST Editorial Board, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/21
Pullman National Monument a ‘testament to the power of our national parks’; Officials and politicians formally opened the monument to the public with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, Rachel Hinton, Chicago Sun-Times, 9/6/21
Renovation of historic clocktower will help put Pullman — and Chicago’s far South Side — back on track; Pullman is enjoying success today because the historic places that make it special were preserved. That’s a lesson for the whole city, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 9/8/20
Pullman National Monument faces a long haul ahead; Even after its grand opening next week, much more work awaits backers positioning the historic site as a big tourist draw and economic engine, Steven R. Strahler, Crain’s Chicago Business, 8/27/21