After decades of grassroots campaigning and a year of lobbying, the factory town of turn-of-the-century railroad tycoon George Pullman will become Chicago's first national monument. President Obama will visit Pullman on February 19th to announce the new status of the historic south side neighborhood, which will help diversify the definition of what a national park can be. (wonder if he'll be asked about any other local building projects). As the Tribune and other have noted, in addition to including a symbol of the rise of both the country's labor movement and black middle class in our park system, this designation may become a catalyst for neighborhood development.
Pullman's nickname as "The World's Most Perfect Town," bestowed during the Prague International Hygienic and Pharmaceutical Exposition of 1896, comes from its orderly layout, green spaces and clockwork public services.
George M. Pullman purchased 4,000 acres in 1879, with construction of the town beginning the following year utilizing bricks made from Lake Calumet Clay. It was one of the first examples of mass-scale, industrial construction, a process that created a village of 1,000 buildings in just three years. Architect Solon Spencer Beman was proud his rowhouses provided an above-average standard of living for workers.
Residents began moving in on the first of the year in 1881, and the town rapidly expanded. The infamous 1894 strike at the plant, which gridlocked half the country, was followed by riots, and the village's fortunes ebbed and flowed with the fate of the Pullman company and the gradual deindustrialization of the area in the later half of the 20th century.