The Administration Building forms the visual and administrative center of the company town of Pullman. Located at the northeast corner of 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, it was designed by Solon Beman and completed in 1880. The Administration Building consists of a central pavilion flanked by ten-bay shop wings that each terminated in a small pavilion. The massive building is seven hundred feet long. A clock tower centers the composition, flanked by narrow chimneys. Until Lake Vista was filled in in 1899 (during the extension of Cottage Grove Avenue), this impressive structure, built of red brick and white Berea sandstone sills and keystones, stood on the lakeshore as a gateway to the industrial town, and also served as the cooling reservoir for the Corliss steam engine. The Administration Building faces the Illinois Central tracks that run west of the building, so this stately edifice and its park-like setting provide visitors with their first impression of Pullman. Offices for the Pullman Company were housed inside the central pavilion.
Inside the shop wings, the manufacturing process was “scientifically” organized in a precursor to the assembly line with complex division of labor and the installation of rail lines that facilitated production of passenger and freight rail cars. There were later additions to the shop wings, circa 1895 and 1905.
The Pullman factory closed in 1955, and parcels of its land were sold off into the following decade. Amtrak briefly reopened the factory in the 1970s but it closed for good in 1982. The Administration Building stood vacant for a time and was ultimately was purchased by the State of Illinois in 1991. A 1998 fire damaged both the Administration Building and its clock tower, but it was rebuilt in 2005 as part of a $3.4 million stabilization effort.
The Pullman District was made a National Monument in 2015. The Chicago-based Bauer Latoza Studio and Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture were selected in 2017 to repurpose the building to serve as the visitors’ center.
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Dinus, Oliver J., and Angela Vergara. Company Towns in the Americas. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
Jackson, Donald, and Carol Poh Miller, “Pullman Industrial Complex,” Cook County, Illinois. Historic American Engineering Record, 1976. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Lillibridge, Robert M., “Pullman: Town Development in the Era of Eclecticism,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians12, no. 3 (October 1953): 17-22.
Lindsey, Almont. The Pullman Strike: The Story of a Unique Experiment and of a Great Labor Upheaval. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1942.
Snell, Charles, “Pullman Historic District,” Cook County, Illinois. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1970. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.