Chicago’s Pullman Neigborhood- Home to the George Pullman’s Company Town designated a National Monunent in 2015


Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood encompasses a much wider area than its two historic areas stretching between W 115th St to 95th St and including the Cottage Grove Heights subdistrict built up in the 1920s-1940s. Historic Pullman was built in the 1880s by George Pullman as a full company town for his workers. The distinctive Victorian rowhouses were comfortable by the time’s standards containing such amenities as indoor plumbing, gas, and sewers. However, this Utopian vision for a company town quickly fell apart during the Panic of 1893. Demand for Pullman cars slackened and the Pullman company responded by laying off hundreds of workers and raising rents and provisions sold at the company town while keeping wages the same. This quickly led to the Pullman Strike in 1894 that lasted 2 months and only ended with the intervention by the US government and military. A couple years later the Illinois Supreme Court required the company to sell off the town as it was beyond the company’s charter. By 1899, the town and other major portions of the South Side were annexed by the city of Chicago and Pullman homes were sold to their occupants. The fortunes of the neighborhood would continue to rise and fall with the Pullman Company for many ensuing decades. The Post War era was not kinda to the Pullman neighborhood as many jobs were lost to deindustrialization and railroad restructuring along with many residents packing up for the suburbs. By the 60s, the original Pullman Town between 103rd and 115th Streets was threatened by demolition for an industrial park. Thankfully local residents formed the Pullman Civic Organization, and the community was preserved as a National Historic Landmark District in 1969. President Obama elevated its designation as National Monument in 2015.

Revitalization of the Pullman rowhouses has gained steam the last 10 years and now many of the rowhomes are selling in the 200Ks. Big box stores and distribution warehouses have moved into the area providing economic opportunity, albeit with  poor urban form. This has also helped reduced crime in the area and Pullman’s population decline appears to be slowing. But much remains to transition Pullman back into a quality urban neighborhood as industrialization and railroad lines have left it deeply scarred and disconnected, much vacant brownfield lands remain, and the community lacks any cohesive urban biz district.

Click here to view my Pullman Album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Solid public transit access, which allows residents to get dwtn in a 30 min train ride. Travel by car can be 20-25 mins without heavy traffic.
* Decent bike coverage with a couple north-side bike lanes and several rentable bikes available in the neighborhood.
* Good diversity indicators especially economic and generational.
* Crime has definitively improved here the best decade thanks to many new jobs in the area and higher incomes. Still some crime issues and areas of blight throughout.
* Good # of walkable schools but mixed ratings.
* Lots of parks space in and around the Historic Pullman neighborhood. Also the expansive Palmer Park just to the west in Roseland complete with a pool.
* Some very attractive working rowhouses in Historic Pullman, cute bungalows in the Cottage Grove Heights, and decent early 20th rowhouses in between.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Very poor urban density thanks to the district industrial legacy and significant neighborhood disinvestment and blight.
* Good street grid where residential areas are located but poor neighborhood level connectivity thanks to the highways and rail lines that disconnect the community.
* Great ADA and sidewalk infrastructure in the residential portions of Pullman, pretty poor in the more industrial/big box parts of the neighborhood.
* Ok number of rentals (at least not many listed on Zillow). 1-beds generally lease around 1k, 2-beds anywhere in the 1Ks, Not many 3-beds available.
* For sale is pretty affordable but not much diversity. Few 1-beds available. 2-beds sell btwn 100K-225; 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 85K-300K.
* Limited park space outside of Historic Pullman District.
* Ok cultural amenities with the Historic Pullman District Site being the most important. Only a handful of restaurants & bars, and a couple art galleries.
* Retail amenities are pretty limited and generally autocentric still some good amenities including: a Walmart (complete with a grocery store as well), a Jewel-Osco, a couple clothing stores, a couple banks, a couple salons/barber shops, a couple dessert joints, a planet fitness, and a handful of churches and doctor offices.
* Not a ton of modern in-fill and what does exist is big boxes or auto centric development.
* Poor urban massing

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