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In the 1880s, the railroad-car magnate George Pullman built a factory and a company town for his employees on what’s now Chicago’s Far South Side. The industrial works have largely disappeared, but new development, including a Walmart, is on the way. Pullman has a complicated history, a promising future, and a wide variety of housing stock, as today’s video tour demonstrates.
The first home, for sale at $130,000, is about a block and a half south of the old factory, a sign that it was a higher-level employee’s home. (For the most part, the closer people lived to the factory, the higher their rank.) Its shared front porch looks out at two centerpieces of the town: the Hotel Florence and Arcade Park.
Inside, it has some nice architectural details intact, including a living room fireplace and dentil moldings in the first-floor rooms. The L-shaped floor plan—another feature that denotes the status of the original residents—provides a window arrangement that brings daylight into the dining room (all the other homes on this tour have only front and back windows).
The kitchen, two baths, and much of the flooring need to be replaced. The three upstairs bedrooms could also be reconfigured or upgraded. These are all “TLC things that my seller was going to do, but she got transferred out of town,” says Gabrielle Weisberg, the Baird & Warner listing agent.
Another block south is the biggest house on the tour. Priced at $155,000, it combines what were originally two workers’ apartments. The original staircase between the two is still in place, but the first floor apartment has been opened up to provide a big suburban-scale living room (rare in a neighborhood filled with 19th-century-size rooms). Beyond it is a large eat-in kitchen with a sunny breakfast room in a rear addition that opens onto a deck. The former second-floor apartment is now three bedrooms, a den, and a bath (the house’s second). This and the next two homes on the tour are all listed by Coldwell Banker’s Mike Wolski, a Pullman resident.
Our third stop is a house that shows just how nice a Pullman renovation can be. Priced at $127,400, it’s part of a block of facades whose gables, parapets, mansards and eyebrow lines reveal how the town was meant to uplift its residents. The interior has been brought up, too, under the attentive watch of a Pullman fan who has renovated a few other properties, according to Wolski. The wood trim in the living room and dining rooms is new but in the original design. The kitchen is also new and includes a granite island, but all the finishes complement the home’s historical nature.
Upstairs are two bedrooms, one looking over a neighborhood park and the other over a long, slender backyard that’s characteristic of the neighborhood. The roof and the electric and plumbing systems are new.
The fourth house on the tour needs the most work. It’s in the farthest south part of Pullman, so it’s not as old; it was built in 1885, while the other residences were built about 1881. Wolski says that it’s priced—at $97,000—“so you can afford to do the work.”
The façade is the least interesting on the tour, and the five-room interior hides any historical details beneath white paint. But they’re there: a skylight hanging over the stair landing, transoms above the three bedroom doors, and an original newel post. The kitchen in this home is big enough to accommodate dining; it may be a combination of original rooms.
North a couple of blocks is our final home. From the nicely painted front porch to the period-style wallpaper in the dining room, this charmer has a welcoming personality. Betty Buchanan, a now-retired University of Chicago nurse, renovated the home in the mid-1990s and now plans to move to another state. She’s selling the home herself, asking $130,000 (call 773-802-8340). With tall windows, the curved wall corners that were used to save space in these modest homes, and much of the original wood trim intact—though in some cases, in a different place than it started out—the house feels true to its origins.
The first-floor layout has been changed, but for the better. The kitchen was pushed farther back, into a 1930s addition, which created a large dining room. Upstairs is a double skylight—half over the hall and half over a bathroom—and two bathrooms tucked beneath the building’s mansard roof.