Initially constructed to house workers of his railcar company, George Pullman’s model community is one of Chicago’s most unique neighborhoods. In its prime, this ‘town within a town’ had its own amenities catering to citizens of Pullman’s French-inspired row houses and colonnade apartments. Today, an information center and the country’s first African-American labor history museum serve visitors to this well-preserved National Historic District.
All this was within walking range of a factory that built railroad passenger cars, some basic and some opulent, some sleepers and some not, for the world.
Among the conveniences in the housing built by George Pullman for his people (who, it must be added, paid rent out of their wages): water, indoor plumbing and gas light, none a given in 1880s Chicago, especially in housing affordable to laborers.
“The housing was much nicer than what people were used to at the time,” Fabris says. “Some people thought the housing was quite grandiose, but he figured a happy worker was a more productive worker.
“These homes were built between 1880 and 1885. Ninety-five percent of the housing is still here.”