Pullman National Monument
Interpreting stories of perseverance, preservation and pride related to American industrialization, urban planning, labor and civil rights.
After years of planning and restoration, Pullman National Monument and State Historic Site held the grand opening of the Pullman National Monument Visitor Center and Pullman State Historic Site’s Car Works grounds on Labor Day weekend in 2021. Visitors now have new opportunities to see the 1881 Pullman Car Works, the heart of this historic planned industrial community. Engage with National Park Service rangers and State Historic Site staff to explore more or take part in a scheduled tour by several historic preservation groups.
Preservation, A President and a Park
Pullman National Monument was designated by President Barack Obama on February 19, 2015, making it the first National Park Service unit in the City of Chicago. He revealed during the designation address that First Lady Michelle Obama’s great grandfather had been a Pullman porter, a job he was very proud of and passionate about.
In becoming part of the National Park Service, it allowed for needed funding to continue restoration efforts and provided an opportunity to reach more people to share the stories of those who built, lived, suffered and thrived in this unique place. The park tells the story of one of the first planned industrial communities in the United States, the sleeping car magnate who helped create it and the workers who lived in the carefully-designed community surrounding the Car Works. Created as an all-inclusive town on its own, the Town of Pullman included housing, a church, school, an arcade of indoor stores, parks and a hotel with dining.
Pullman is significant for its influence on urban planning and design. Pullman workers made American labor history, including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott, which prompted the U.S. Government to create a “Labor Day” holiday and changed American workers’ rights and protections.
The Pullman historic district includes the former Pullman Palace Car Works shops and Administration Building; the Hotel Florence, named for George Pullman's eldest child; Arcade Park; the Greenstone Church, which is now the Greenstone United Methodist Church; and the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, named for the prominent leader A. Philip Randolph, which recognizes and explores African American labor history and was founded in 1995.
A visit to Pullman National Monument offers insight into the industrial age, provides examples of 19th century architecture and highlights the merits of the planned community while also providing an education on the disparity between low-level laborers and the higher paid management personnel. The vast difference is apparent in looking at the neighborhood’s housing where executives lived in more luxurious and spacious homes and the workers of lower status resided in simple, but attractive rows of smaller quarters.
Honoring African American History
A key role in the Pullman Palace Car Company’s success was that of porter - a job held almost exclusively by African Americans. The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum highlights the contributions of this group of employees and focuses on the experience of the African American railroad employee as well as the service of Randolph as chief organizer and co-founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union.
Making The Most Of Your Visit
Park rangers recommend planning at least a half day at the site to maximize your experience. Start your visit at the National Park Service’s Visitor Center in the Administration Building at 11001 South Cottage Grove Avenue, where you can explore new exhibits and get help from a ranger in crafting your itinerary. The Pullman Car Works grounds offer self-guided signs to orient visitors to the massive complex where 9,000 men and women worked during the 1880s. The Historic Pullman Foundation’s newly re-innovated Exhibit Hall at 11141 South Cottage Grove Avenue offers exhibits and public programs.
Wear your walking shoes and explore the neighborhood to view the rows of workers homes and houses of company executives, secure your spot in a scheduled ranger tour and plan to complete your trip with a stop at the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Museum at 104th and Maryland. The design of this 1880s historic community necessitated that everything be within walking distance, so once you’re there you can easily access everything by foot with a short stroll. "Pullman At Home" is coming in spring 2022. The Pullman House Project guided tours will use select Pullman homes as the backdrop to tell the stories of Pullman's workers and their families.
Download the free NPS App through the App Store or Google Play for interactive maps, tours, accessibility information and much more.
Although Pullman is easily accessible by car via I-94 or Stony Island Avenue or by bus, when planning a visit to the Pullman National Monument, it only seems fitting to arrive there by train. Metra Electric District trains stop at the 111th Street-Pullman station (only certain scheduled trains) and 115th Street-Kensington station. You will step off the train into a panoramic view of Pullman. Metra is accessible via several points within the Chicago Southland as well as from Millennium Station in Chicago. For Metra Electric District scheduling information, visit Metra.com.
Become a Junior Park Ranger
Visiting with the family? Keep the kids busy with an activity booklet during their time at the site. Kids complete the book and share with a ranger to receive an official Pullman Junior Ranger badge.
View coming events at NPS.gov, VisitChicagoSouthland.com/Events calendar or by following Pullman National Monument, National Park Service on Facebook to learn more about upcoming programs and events, including Labor Day weekend festivities and the popular annual home tours in October.