The Town of Pullman

The model town of Pullman was built on 4,000 acres of land on the west shore of Lake Calumet. Mr. Pullman intended the town to serve as a center of industry and to house the employees of his car company in a beautiful, healthy and progressive environment that would instill "habits of respectability" in his workers--good manners, neatness, cleanliness, and sobriety. As a social experiment and philanthropic endeavour, it appeared successful.


Solon Spencer Beman, a 28 year old architect, along with landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett, designed George Pullman's mansion and model town. Outsiders marvelled at the ornate details of the Administration Building, the Hotel Florence, and Green Stone Church, as well as the luxurious conditions of the Library and the Arcade. These magnificent buildings were later copied in design and effect by the plaster constructions of the World's Fair.

Arcade and Church

There were other beautifully constructed buildings in Pullman with more of a functional purpose, such as the Markethouse, the School, and the Stables. Yet, as Richard Ely points out, these public buildings were detached from other structures, unlike all of the private living quarters. The streets filled with row houses and tenements were named after great inventors, such as Fulton, Stephenson, Watt, Morse, and of course Pullman.

The workers' houses, humble in appearance both inside and out, were monotous and gave the impression of soliders' barracks. They were said to be clean with an abundance of air. Most were two stories with five rooms in addition to cellars, pantries, and closets. There was indeed water from a faucet used by five families, often located in one of the small closets. There were no yards and for those families living upstairs, no front door. Most of the buildings were constructed with brick made in the Pullman brickyards. These same brickyards contained the "eye sore" of the town--four rows of 16 x 20 feet little wooden shanties that had a sitting room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen in a lean-to. Compare all this to the Arcade and the Library!

Despite Mr. Pullman's intentions and his desirability for the "commerical value of beauty," his model town was not a real home for the workers who lived there. One woman compared it to "living in a great hotel--we call it camping out." Yet before too long, the price paid to camp out in these little homes became too much for the Pullman workers to withstand.

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