Pullman is an historic, planned community established by an enterprising railroad car tycoon. The neighborhood is no longer centered about the manufacturing business, but it continues to provide residents with comfortable homes and easy access to the rest of the Chicago city. Pullman upholds its unique roots by preserving the original buildings constructed as part of “Pullman Town.” Museum exhibits and walking tours of the streets and landmark structures are even offered, which give visitors a glimpse back in time. Fast forwarding to present day, Pullman provides all the perks of any modern Chicago neighborhood: good schools, affordable real estate, convenience shops, and a pinch of nightlife.
Location: Approximately 16 miles south of the Loop
Boundaries: Bishop Ford Freeway (I-94) to the north and east, 115th Street to the south and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west.
Bordering Neighborhoods: Cottage Grove Heights, Rosemoor, Roseland, West Pullman, Kensington
Crime Statistics: Go to CLEARMap for crime stats on specific Chicago neighborhood, intersection, address or police beat.
Then and Now
Itself a relic of the industrial revolution in Chicago, Pullman enjoys a very rich history as one of the first, and perhaps the most famous, planned community in America.
In the late 1870s, George M. Pullman had a problem. Due to the increasing popularity of travel by rail, demand for his Pullman Palace Cars (sleeping and parlor cars for trains) was also growing. As a result, Pullman concluded that he needed not just a new Chicago factory, but also a way to attract good labor without ensnaring them in the life of poverty commonly seen as the factory-worker’s place at the time.
His answer was to purchase 4,000 acres of land near Lake Calumet and construct both a factory and a town. He hired architect Solon Beman and landscape architect Nathan Barrett to design and build a small community that would provide his workers with decent housing and the necessities of daily life. The end result was astounding. As opposed to the shabby tenements near ominous factories that most workers dealt with, living in Pullman (the settlement was, of course, named after the man himself) was a dream. The town, owned by the company, provided everything its citizens/workers could need: schools, parks, a theater, a library, stores, and many other amenities. The entire development was considered a work of art and a success of social planning. It won a number of awards and was dubbed 'the world’s most perfect town.' The workers and their families enjoyed life in their comfortable homes, which featured such amenities as indoor plumbing and gas. Life in Pullman, for a time, was very good.
In the economic slump that followed the Panic of 1893, however, demand for Pullman railroad cars dwindled. As a result, massive numbers of Pullman employees (and residents of the Pullman neighborhood) were laid off or received devastating pay cuts. This was bad, but the real blow to workers was their company-controlled rents, which remained high. Feeling mistreated, the workers went on strike in 1894. The Pullman Strike lasted for two months and drew the attention of the media and government. Newspapers decried the inflexible and unfair Pullman management, which was mistreating its abiding employees. In 1889 the federal government weighed in through the Supreme Court, which forced the Pullman Company to give up ownership of the residences. The town was then absorbed into Chicago as another south side neighborhood, thus shattering a little slice of the American dream.
The Pullman neighborhood changed over the years in rather expected ways. By the time the Pullman Company closed up shop completely (they’d been downsizing for decades) in 1981, the area had lost its luster. But long before that, it reached an all-time low in the late 1920s and 1930s when bootlegging and unemployment were at astronomical levels, turning Pullman into a slum. Things improved, but Pullman still had a bit of a stigma as valueless and largely vacant industrial area, so it should have come as little surprising when it was recommended in 1960 that the whole area be demolished to build a new industrial park.
Pullman residents fought this destruction. They reactivated the Pullman Civic Organization and worked hard to remove any lingering signs of blight in the community. Neighbors formed the Historic Pullman Foundation and lobbied to keep their neighborhood on account of its historic significance. They eventually won out and Pullman was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, protecting the 900 remaining row houses and public buildings.
Today, Pullman offers walking tours of the streets and historic structures. Many of the original homes have had significant work done to improve and modernize, making them fine places to live once again. Although it may not be the world’s most perfect town anymore (after all, it’s no longer a town at all), Pullman is a unique and attractive place to live, with a long and fascinating history.
You might think that greenery would be in short supply in a former industrial company town, but you’d be mistaken. Pullman is actually home to a number of small recreation spots for a variety of activities. The largest of the Pullman parks is Gately Park (810 E 103rd St, 312-747-6155), which dates back to the late 1940s when it was constructed on former Pullman factory land. In addition to baseball facilities, the park has a grandstand, locker rooms, and an office building used to organize various programs for youths and adults.
Both Arcade Park (11132 S Saint Lawrence Ave, 312-747-4661) and Pullman Playlot Park (1111 S Cottage Grove Ave) were donated to the then-town of Pullman by its founder, George Pullman. At the time they were pleasant places for workers to relax and for their children to play. The parks were absorbed under the jurisdiction of Chicago when the town was given over to the city. Today these neighborhood retreats remain pleasant places for workers to relax and for families to bring their kids. Each park features playground equipment and drinking fountains, and Arcade Park occasionally hosts concerts.
Art and Architecture
Walking through Pullman, it’s easy to see why it earned National Historic Landmark status. A large number of the buildings designed by Solon Beman are still standing, most in Pullman’s historic district—an area roughly bordered by 104th and 115th streets and Langley and Cottage Grove avenues. If you’re interested in the historic structures Pullman has to offer, be sure to stop by the Historic Pullman Visitor Center (11141 S Cottage Grove Ave, 773-385-8901), which is run by the employees and volunteers of the Historic Pullman Foundation. In addition to working to renovate a number of buildings, they offer walking tours of historic Pullman.
On top of the original Beman homes, Pullman has a number of noteworthy architectural treasures to check out as you stroll the neighborhood streets. The Greenstone Church (11211 S St Lawrence Ave, 773-785-1492) dates back to the area’s birth and boasts one of the few manual tracker organs (which means that the organ’s valves are mechanically linked to the keys, as opposed to the electrical systems that eliminate such direct connections in modern organs) remaining in the United States. Manual tracker organs are more physically demanding to play, which is part of the reason they have been replaced by electronic versions. The Clock Tower and Factory retains much of the original feel of factory life in Pullman. In fact, this section of town was used in the 2002 film Road to Perdition as a historic location. So the next time you pop in that DVD to watch Tom Hanks play the part of a caring hitman, keep an eye out for the familiar sights of Pullman neighborhood.
In the 1920s and the 1970s, a series of fires seriously damaged a number of Pullman’s historic structures, but the Historic Pullman Foundation is hard at work restoring them to their former glory. Among these buildings are the Hotel Florence, built to house visitors eager to see the 'perfect town' of Pullman, and the Market Hall, a building that housed shops, meeting rooms, and a banquet hall. The next couple years should see both these landmarks revitalized and welcoming visitors from far and wide once again
Pullman Real Estate
Thanks to the planning of architect Solon Beman and landscape architect Nathan Barrett in the late 1870s, Pullman enjoys a unique uniform design throughout many of its streets and homes. The Queen Anne style favored by Beman can be seen in a number of structures that dot Pullman’s residential avenues. The original 900 rowhouses still stand, many of which have been recently renovated, putting them in excellent condition while retaining their historical charm. They sit along tree-lined lanes and are aesthetically impressive once again, just as they were in the company town days.
Aside from the tightly packed rowhouses, Pullman features other residential structures were built later. Bungalows, ranches, and two-story brick homes sit on modest lots that offer a bit more space (compared to the yard-free rowhouses) and even garages. These two- and three-bedroom homes are ideal for raising families, as the nearby parks are fine places for tiny feet to scamper about.
The average sales price for a detached single-family house with three-bedrooms in Pullman is about $128,000. Two-bedroom homes are a little harder to come by, but these cost around $119,000 on average. Attached dwelling in this south side Chicago neighborhood generally run between $50,000 and $175,000 for something with one or two bedrooms. You should be able to find a unit with three or four bedrooms in that same price range; however, there are a few places that sell for closer to $200,000.
What’s on the Menu?
Pullman was originally designed as a residential area (aside from the giant factory, that is) and it has remained so over the years. Despite the lack of commercial development, Pullman does feature a few places for some hearty eating.
When we’re itching for old-fashioned diner food nothing scratches that itch quite like The Cal Harbor Restaurant and Lounge (546 E 115th St, 773-264-5435). It might not be terribly impressive from the outside, but spot that yellow awning and you’re in the right place for a step back in time (a rather common theme here in Pullman). We’re talking genuine 1950s, with its vinyl booths, swiveling counter stools, and reasonably priced food. This neighborhood eatery is open for breakfast and lunch, serving up omelets, pancakes, corned beef hash, eggs, and the like. Our favorite? The steak and eggs combo and the unique olive burger, which is a beef patty chopped with olives and cheese.
If you don’t really have time to sit at a counter with a cup of coffee and yak with the waitress, Pullman has some even faster food options. Mr. Submarine (857 E 111th St, 773-568-9227) is a Chicago staple and this Pullman branch adheres to what has made the local chain successful: good subs at low prices. Decor is nothing exceptional, but the lunch specials are a steal at under five dollars. We recommend the aptly named Mr. Sub, a classic Chicago-style sub with cold cuts, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, sub dressing, and mayo slathered on the sesame seed bun. Sure, that mayo adds calories, but it also adds deliciousness. Mr. Submarine does offer other items in addition to subs. Gyros, Italian beef, and hot dogs round out the menu.
For just a straight-up hot dog fix, you might want to check out Nicki’s Dog House (11052 S Cottage Grove Ave, 773-568-3600), a place that—as its name implies—specializes in that all-American food. One of many little hot dog stands scattered about the city, Nicki’s Dog House offers up the standard Chicago beef hot dog with all the fixings: mustard, piccalilli, a kosher dill pickle, onions, hot peppers, and celery salt on a poppy seed bun (never ketchup). It gets our mouths watering just thinking about it. For non-hot dog deals, we recommend one of Nicki’s other specialties, such as Polish sausages or fried fish sandwiches. It’s carryout only, so be ready to eat on the run or take it back home (if you can wait that long).
Best Shopping Stops
None of George Pullman’s company-owned shops are still around, and today Pullman is (as we mentioned) pretty much mostly residential. Still, there are a few hidden gems.
Pullman’s most notable little shop is Digit! Pullman (11208 S Saint Lawrence Ave, 773-520-1373), a unique little boutique that features an eclectic mix of wares. Peace symbols and tie-dyed flags greet you at the entrance, so it’s not surprising that, inside, you’ll find a large and interesting combination of hippie paraphernalia (tie-dye abounds, with the occasional Grateful Dead item) along with rare antiques, kitsch 70s-era novelty salt-and-pepper shakers and clocks that can only be described as 'wacky,' unique furniture, and original artisan wares and artwork. They have everything from original tables from the 1933 World’s Fair to love beads. Digit! truly is a unique store that has to be experienced. We definitely recommend stopping by, as it’s every bit as much a Pullman landmark as a store.
Night on the Town
Nightlife in Pullman is not terribly lively. For that, you’ll mostly have to head north to the city’s center.
Most of Pullman’s evening outings center around neighborhood bars, such as Pullman’s Pub (611 E 113th St, 773-568-0264). This classic Chicago pub, with its classic brick and glass block, has been in operation since the 1920s. The decor isn’t terribly exciting, but it’s tidy and simple. The beer selection is basic (think Bud and Old Style), and dining options are pretty much just snacks and pizza. Still, with the friendly staff, the chatty clientele, the pool table and darts, it’s not a bad place to take in that Sox game or tip one back after work. Plus, Pullman’s Pub boasts a place in cinematic history. In the 1993 flick The Fugitive, Harrison Ford pops into Pullman’s Pub and uses the bar’s pay phone (don’t feel old, we remember the pre-cell phone days, too) before hurrying off after the 'one-armed man.'
Transportation within Pullman is much like they did in the factory days—by foot. A good walk through the historic district would allow you the chance to marvel at the historic structures and architecture. If you’re heading further out, Chicago’s public transportation system (the CTA) has got you covered.
One of the easiest routes from Pullman to the rest of the city is by CTA bus. The #111 bus runs right through the Pullman historic district and then heads over to the 95th/Dan Ryan station, where you can board another bus heading downtown. Although the buses from the 95th/Dan Ryan station work well, we recommend Chicago’s elevated train system (otherwise known as the 'El'). The Red Line El begins and ends right at the 95th/Dan Ryan station and runs north to the heart of Chicago’s Loop and beyond. With trains running every 15 minutes or so, it’s easily the fastest way across the city.
The El isn’t the only train in town though. Pullman also has stops on a Metra commuter line, which connects the downtown Loop with the suburbs (and stops in the city as well), and provides a perfect way to get to and from work. They even have increased service during peak travel hours, namely the morning and evening commutes. The Metra Electric line has two stops in Pullman: at 111th and 115th streets, from which it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to get downtown.
For those of us who prefer a more private commute, Pullman is also close to the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-94), which runs north into the heart of the city. Owning a car in Pullman isn’t too tricky; a number of newer homes (namely those not built in the 1800s) feature garages for parking your vehicle. Since factory workers during the 1800s were unlikely to be automobile-owners, the historic rowhouses do not have garages, but there’s usually plenty of room to park on the street, so this isn’t really a problem.
School’s in Session
Olive-Harvey College (10001 S Woodlawn Ave, 773-291-6100), located on the north side of Pullman, is one of the seven schools that make up the City Colleges of Chicago, a group of city-based two-year community colleges. Students at Olive-Harvey can pursue two-year degrees to either then transfer credits toward a four-year bachelor’s degree, or to obtain training and certification for specific career paths. Class sizes are relatively small (on average around 25), which allows for greater one-on-one instruction.
Pullman also has a decent selection of public and private schools to choose from. In addition to the following, you can find more information on Chicago area schools at our Chicago Guide Schools page.
Corliss High School 821 E 103rd St – (773) 535-5115
George M Pullman School 11311 S Forrestville Ave – (773) 535-5395
Olive-Harvey College 10001 S. Woodlawn – (773) 291-6100
Poe Classical Elementary School 10538 S Langley Ave – (773) 535-5213
Smith Elementary School 744 E 103rd St – (773) 535-5689
We’ve assembled a sampling of some of the places where you can get your bare necessities in Pullman neighborhood, from books to baked goods, potatoes to postage.
Chicago Transit Authority – (888) 968-7282
Chicago Public Library Pullman Branch 11001 S Indiana Ave – (312) 747-2033
11033 S State St (800) ASK-USPS
Walgreens 11040 S Michigan – (773) 928-6770
Roseland Community Hospital 45 W 111th St – (773) 995-3070
Jewel-Osco 11414 S Halsted – (773) 928-4600
The following are just a taste of the dining, shopping, and entertainment Pullman has to offer. Discover the rest as you explore the neighborhood for yourself.
Historic Pullman Foundation Visitor Center 11141 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 785-8901
A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum/Gallery 10406 S Maryland Ave 773-928-3935
Greenstone Church 11211 S St Lawrence Ave – (773) 785-1492
Digit! Pullman 11208 S Saint Lawrence Ave
Cal Harbor Restaurant & Lounge 546 E 115th St – (773) 264-5435
Mr. Submarine 857 E 111th St – (773) 568-9227
Nicki’s Dog House 11052 S Cottage Grove Ave – (773) 568-3600
Clay’s Tavern 10552 S Corliss Ave – (773) 995-7516
The Excalibur Club 451 E 111th St – (773) 995-9187
Pullman’s Pub 611 E 113th St – (773) 568-0264
There’s a lot of mystery involved in searching for a new home-it starts with the property and expands outward to encompass the street, the block, the neighborhood, the entire city! Every little thing matters from the color of the walls to the attractions of the town. That’s why a guide like this one on Pullman is so helpful to potential homebuyers. Without leaving the comfort of your desktop computer or laptop, you’ve got an extensive pool of information on all of Chicago’s neighborhoods that includes first-hand descriptions of dining, entertainment, shopping, bars, and events, in addition to lists of schools, hospitals, post offices, and gyms. We’ve done all the research to carefully craft this one-stop online spot, and create your hub for the real deal on Pullman. So as soon as a Chicago loft, condo, townhome or house catches your eye, you know where to come for the low down on the digs around that prime piece of real estate.