What exactly is Pullman? It is both a community and a lesson from the past. It is a neighborhood and a labor movement, a national monument and a focal point of the fight for civil rights. It was at one time “the world’s most perfect town,” and at another, a community crumbling with neglect. The essence of Pullman is not just a story of the past; it is a living community that continues to write its history today. Visiting this neighborhood offers you a chance to glimpse into the past and see a way towards the future.
A 30-35 minute ride on the Metra Electric District from downtown will get you to the 111th Street/Pullman station. In 2016, the station was redone to resemble a Pullman Palace Car in honor of the heritage of the neighborhood the station serves. From the platform, you can see the Pullman factory clock tower, a part of the building designated as a national monument by President Obama in 2015.
Though the monument is still under restoration until late-2020, you can find plenty of learning and site-seeing opportunities around town. Stop into the National Monument Visitor Center just south of 111th Street on Cottage Grove Avenue and tour the free museum showcasing the history of the neighborhood. You can also sign up for tours (or pick up brochures for self-guided home tours). Just remember that the properties are private residences and should be respected.
The National A. Philip Randolph Porter Museum east of the Visitors Center is open on Saturdays as well, though it’s worth it to call ahead to make sure. The museum celebrates the African Americans who were a part of the U.S. labor movement and laid the groundwork for the advancement of the civil rights movement.
Two special events leading up to the Labor Day holiday weekend will take place in the area. This Saturday, Aug. 24, the A. Philip Randolph Porter Museum is hosting a gathering to commemorate the first chartered black labor union in America, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. On Labor Day, the Historic Pullman Foundation and National Park Service will be celebrating the labor movement sparked in Pullman with special events, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
With all the walking you will be doing, there are a few restaurants and eateries available to you to fuel up. The Pullman Café, a small diner with salads and sandwiches, is located around the corner from the Visitors Center and One Eleven Food Hall, a cafeteria-style eatery, a walk from the Metra station.
So what is Pullman? That may be up to you to decide. Perhaps we can all agree that Pullman is a place of progress, triumph, celebration and preservation for all to enjoy.