Think your bosses are domineering tyrants who expect you to spend every waking moment contributing to their outrageous profit? They might be, but you just can’t beat a nineteenth-century industrialist when it comes to profiteering, inhumanity and malfeasance. When you’re feeling belittled and overwhelmed at your job, take the Metra Electric Line south to Pullman/111th and behold the magical, twisted experiment in social and industrial engineering attempted by George M. Pullman, founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Pullman created the first planned industrial town in 1880 on land surrounding the Illinois Central Railroad, providing housing, diversion and a public works infrastructure for his employees. A stark clock tower dominates the town where workers fabricated his signature rail cars. Life in Pullman hummed along efficiently and without disruption until the depression of 1893. Faced with declining profits, Pullman slashed worker’s wages, but didn’t adequately adjust the cost of living in Pullman, Illinois. The famed Pullman Strike ensued, and the town was eventually rendered a strange, near-tragic mistake. Eventually annexed by Chicago, it remains a surprisingly well-preserved South Side relic, one of the city’s few vintage neighborhoods not badly corrupted by fire or progress.
Historic Pullman Visitor Center
11141 South Cottage Grove Avenue (773)785-8901
Best of Chicago 2002 (Updated 2011)