Pullman Historic House Tour a walk back in time

September 29, 2012 (CHICAGO)

A visit to historic Pullman should probably start in the visitor center on 111th and Cottage Grove. A 17-minute film goes through the history of this 4x12 block chunk of Chicago, from 103rd to 115th street between Cottage Grove and Langley.

The center is full of artifacts from the Pullman cars that were built here and dominated the luxury railway car market from the 1860s all the way until the 1950s. The Historic Walk pulls it all together.

"It teaches us that we need to learn more about the neighborhoods we live in," said volunteer tour guide Thomas McMahon. "You can never know enough about the neighborhoods you live in."

But while the company disappeared with the railroad age, the city founded by George Pullman remains - its row houses mandated to sport the same olive and red the industrialist made his company's own. Software executive Mike Manika is opening his home for this year's Pullman House Tour

"I love history I love the opportunity in which to be a participant in what the neighborhood had brought to bear and the fact I am fortunate enough to live here is my pleasure, I love it," said Pullman homeowner Michael Manika.

Manika's is one of the supervisors' homes enjoying pride of place on the border of Arcade Park, the city of Pullman's center court

"Not only do you the architecture and the first planned community in the US you have a lot of union influence," he said. "Really I think Chicago is very fortunate to have a neighborhood like this still intact."

When you make your way around the community you see residences in various states of repair. Only the facades are governed by landmark designation - but inside home owners can do what they want.

Three homes will be featured on this year's walk, including Brian McCarran's renovated workers home. These are the apartments in which craftsmen housed their families - in clean and safe settings, a key provision George Pullman wanted to his workers to have - along with above average wages.

"Being here is to be part of the history as we move into the future," McCarran said.

McCarran converted what for years had been a two-flat into this soaring - and decidedly modern -- space. Many doors were salvaged from other Pullman homes. The holes in the brick mark where the ceilings joists went. And out back -- when you stand on the balcony and ignore the wires and satellite dishes - you can feel how close-quartered Pullman employees must have been.

"If the walls could talk I think they would have a lot to say especially in this neighborhood because they have been standing for 130 years," said McCarran.

Back at the visitor center a family of ex-Chicagoans soaks in the history - and while they won't be here for the walk, spending time in Pullman they feel is worthy of anyone who wants to better understand Chicago.

"It all sort of collapsed under the 1893 financial depression and created a lot of havoc and pain for everyone which is sad, but at the time it created a great atmosphere for the people who were working here," said visitor Jeff Later.

This year's historic Pullman House Tour, the 39th, takes place October 13 and14, and costs $20 for adults, $17 for seniors.

When the first house tour took place in 1974, admission was $3.

For more information: http://www.pullmanil.org/housetour.htm

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