November 29, 2004

Want to celebrate your railroad labor heritage in style—and welcome the holidays at the same time?

You can do both Saturday, December 11 by being part of the Historic Pullman Candlelight House Walk in the preserved and restored Historic Pullman neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. you can tour Pullman’s 19th-century townhouses and inspect the historic Greenstone Church – all decked with Christmas cheer. Two seatings are available for the buffet dinner, complete with madrigal singers and a silent auction of Pullman and holiday memorabilia.

A registered city, state and national landmark, Historic Pullman is the “model town” that railroad sleeping-car magnate George M. Pullman built during the 1880s to house his employees and executives. Awarded the title “World’s Most Perfect Town” at a major European exhibition, it was inspected repeatedly by visitors from abroad who looked to America for answers to the question of how industrial workers should be treated by their employers.

George M. Pullman commissioned famed architect Solon S. Beman to create his ideal workingmen’s community. The Town of Pullman included not only the Pullman Palace Car factories, but also more than 1,500 handsome and sturdy brick townhouse units where Pullman employees and their families could enjoy comforts and amenities unheard of among industrial workers at that time—indoor plumbing, central heating, sanitary piped-in drinking water, free garbage collection, and electric light.

Pullman believed treating his employees to healthy surroundings would buy him labor peace in a time of increasing labor strife. But when business slumped in the winter of 1893, Pullman cut his workers’ pay without cutting their rent. The employees walked out, and the nation’s railroad workers – led by American Railway Union leader Eugene V. Debs – struck in sympathy by refusing to operate Pullman sleeping cars in their trains. It took a presidential order and National Guard troops to quell the strike, which stopped hundreds of trains from coast to coast and even halted the U.S. Mail.

The injustices suffered by Pullman employees in 1893-94 awakened millions of U.S. workers in the transportation, mining and manufacturing industries and set the stage for the formation of dozens of new unions as well as major legislation to protect the rights and the health of working people in the years ahead.

Amazingly, the town where it all started survives as a thriving and reviving Chicago neighborhood. If you’d like to see it for yourself during the Annual Candlelight Walk, call (773) 785-8901 to reserve space. Tickets are $50 per person, and there will be two dinner seatings.

For further details, visit and click on the CALENDAR link to learn more about the Annual Candlelight Walk and Dinner.