Pullman National Historical Park


Part of the National Park Service, Pullman offers a rare look at a capitalist's fallen utopia. The community's design and architecture make for a fascinating walkabout, and you'll learn about labor history and urban planning. The Historic Pullman Foundation (www.pullmanil.org) offers information and occasional walking tours; check the website for details. The site isn't easy to reach, as it is located at Chicago's southern edge. Metra's Electric Line train makes the trip in about 40 minutes from downtown's Millennium Station.

The backstory: George Pullman was a millionaire rail-car manufacturer, and he started his namesake community in 1880 to provide his workers with homes in a wholesome environment. He built houses, apartments, stores, a hotel and churches. The town's careful design was based on French models and featured an aesthetic unknown in workers' housing then or now. But business went sour in 1893 when an economic depression hit. Pullman cut workers' pay, though he didn't lower their rent. A violent strike ensued in 1894, and things were never the same afterward. Pullman died in 1897, and the town was sold off shortly thereafter.

Though it became a national park in 2015, the site is still a work in progress, and several buildings are still being refurbished. A new visitor center is set to open in the Clock Tower by late 2020.

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