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Pullman, Illinois

George M. Pullman formed the Pullman Land Association with Colonel James Bowen and purchased 4,000 acres for $800,000 in the late 1870s. He built a factory and town on this land along Lake Calumet, 14 miles south of Chicago near the Illinois Central Railroad lines.

Snowbound Chicago
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Pullman then commissioned architects Solon Beman and Nathan Barrett to design a factory and town. Beman and Barrett designed 1300 original structures, including brick homes, schools, parks, a library, a theater and an administration building. Pullman’s plan included educational programs and recreational activities for the workers of Pullman’s Palace Car Company factory and their families. He believed the complex would solve labor problems and poverty. His town would also provide a 6% profit from leases and revenue from company stores. In 1881, the first residents moved in, and in 1884, the State Labor Commission labeled Pullman, Illinois a success.

Hotel Florence was built and named for Pullman’s daughter. The showpiece of the community was the administration building with its Clock Tower and a man-made lake. Market Square contained stores for community residents. Greenstone Church was available for lease for interested denominations.

Pullman was proud and protective of his town. He wanted his workers to breathe clean, country air and have the best community so they would be happy and loyal to the company. He prohibited saloons, independent newspapers, public speeches, town meetings, open discussions and private charitable organizations. Workers’ homes were inspected for cleanliness, and leases could be terminated in 10 days.

By 1892, Pullman’s town was worth $5 million. It attracted visitors to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and Pullman was admired for his foresight and goodwill. Pullman, Illinois was considered one of the most wholesome places in the world.

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