"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From The Archives: Volume 1

Throughout our tours of Chicago's various neighborhoods, we end up snapping dozens of pictures that don't make the cut for various reasons.  Whether it be due to a lack of space, or the sake of repetitiveness, some images we've taken just haven't quite fit into our entries.

From time to time, we're going to do "From The Archives" posts where we get to go back and show some of these pictures and share our thoughts.  So please click below for some more reflections on past neighborhoods that we've visited.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


The Breakdown
Mural underneath the train tracks at 113th St. & Front Ave.
An overview: Pullman.  It’s a place that most Chicagoans know of, but not nearly enough have been there to appreciate it.  “The World’s Most Perfect Town” just over a century ago has suffered through hard times since the late 1800s.  It remains an area of industry, but it also refuses to let go of its short-lived moment in the sun.  Via government assistance and the passionate determination of its residents, many of the historic homes and buildings still remain, and some of those that didn’t survive have been rebuilt or are in-line for the same.  The hard work of these residents and preservationists has left Chicago’s far south side with an iconic historical neighborhood, and a must-see for any true Chicagoan.

The boundaries: The Pullman community area is bounded by 95th Street to the north, 115th Street to the south, and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west.  To the northeast it’s bounded by Stony Island Avenue, and to the southeast the Bishop Ford Freeway (I-94).  The majority of the historic district (or at least the accessible portion) lies just east of Cottage Grove Avenue between 111th Street and 113th Street although when it was first built it went much further north and south.

Population make-up: Pullman is made up of Census tracts 5001, 5002, and 5003.  Pullman is Chicago’s fifth smallest of the 77 community areas by population.  This is largely due to the industrial presence within its boundaries, but also to a population decrease in the past ten years.  The number of residents has dropped from 8,921 in 2000 to 7,325 in 2010, a 17.9% decrease.  The historic district itself is home to ~1500 people.  As of 2010, the ethnic make-up of Pullman was 83.8% black, 7.9% Hispanic, and 7.4% white.

Remnants of the Pullman factory,
severely damaged by fire in the late 90s.
A brief history: George Pullman was a tycoon who in the time shortly after the Civil War hit it big with the invention of more spacious and luxurious rail cars.  In the pursuit of the next location for his factory, he decided on an area just south of the Chicago city limits.  However, instead of just wanting to build another factory, Mr. Pullman had much greater things in mind.  You might say he was the original Hank Scorpio, and he created one of the world’s first planned communities.

In Pullman, his employees could live within a ten minute walk from the factory.  He built a town hall, hotel for guests, public parks, homes of various sizes, a predecessor to today’s shopping malls, and a church that could be rented/used by any Christian denomination.  Workers didn’t own their homes, but rented.  Their benefits included indoor plumbing in every home, something unheard of in the 1880s.  Unfortunately, the Pullman Railcar Company hit hard times in the mid-1890s.  Wages were slashed, yet rents remained the same.  This resulted in one of U.S. history’s most famous union strikes.  Within 15 years, Mr. Pullman passed away, the Illinois Supreme Court demanded that the company withdraw ownership of the residential properties, and the town became annexed as part of the City of Chicago.

The beautifully restored Administration Building.
In the 50 years from 1910-1960, Pullman saw a substantial decline in the public eye, viewed by many as simply a mix of old housing and industry.  The historic area of Pullman was on the verge of being leveled for more industrial uses.  However, the residents banded together and fought to preserve this quintessential piece of American history.  Although not all the buildings survive, many of the vintage houses, row homes, and apartments still stand.  The iconic Administration Building, almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1998, has been rebuilt and is, even more profoundly than before, a symbol of the neighborhood that refused to fade away.  Although in various states of disrepair, other important buildings such as the Hotel Florence, Market Square, and Greenstone Church are still accessible.

Getting there: If you’re counting on the “L”, your only bet would be the Red Line to its terminus at 95th/Dan Ryan and then taking the Pullman bus (111).  However, you can definitely take the Metra as well.  The Metra Electric District line (from Millenium Station) makes stops along the western border of Pullman at 95th, 103rd, 107th, 111th, and 115th.  The stop at 111th Street will drop you right off at the historic district.

By bus your east-west options are: 95th Street/Jeffery Manor Express (100), 103rd Street (106), and Pullman/111th/115th (111).  Bus route 111 is also your only north-south option, as it covers Cottage Grove Avenue as well.