Chicago’s 53rd community, West Pullman, borders Roseland to the north, the Little Calumet River to the south, Riverdale to the east and Ashland Avenue to the west. It was never a part of the Pullman Corporate town to the northeast.
Savannas and woodlands north of the Little Calumet River were settled and became the villages of Kensington, Gano, West Pullman and Stewart Ridge. In 1891, the West Pullman Land Association acquired additional land for the community.
In the 1920s, University of Chicago sociologists merged these towns and the land into West Pullman community. It was settled by European ethnic skilled and unskilled workers, and companies like International Harvester, Whitman &Barnes and Carter White Lead Paint opened businesses. Prosperous officials of the Pullman Car Company built their mansions in Stewart Ridge. The Great Depression Era brought hard times and racial strife. Prosperity returned after WWII. The decline of industry left the region in poverty and unemployment. Toxic waste, lead and other contaminants threatened the residents’ lives. The city, state and federal governments worked to save this EPA brownfield. The Exelon City Solar Plant, the largest urban solar photovoltaic company, opened its business and now provides energy to 1,500 homes.
Today West Pullman is being reclaimed, but it’s troubled by crime and poverty. A natural savanna of native grasses and wildflowers and the West Pullman Butterfly Sanctuary provides the opportunity to observe natural beauty and many species of butterflies. The Foster House and Stable, home of developer and attorney Stephen A. Foster, was declared a Chicago Landmark in 1996. The Japanese- inspired home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1900. Residents enjoy the Stewart Ridge Historic District and cherish their history.
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