Chicago Gang History

Pullman

NamePullman
Location95th Street on the north, 115th Street on the south, South Stoney Island Avenue to Bishop Ford Expressway on the east, South Cottage Grove Avenue on the west
Settled1879
FounderGeorge M. Pullman
Year annexed1889

This area was barren land early in the 19th century and was made to be part of Hyde Park Township in 1861; however, no one really lived here.  In the year 1879 George M. Pullman was looking to build up a train car factory away from the hustle and bustle of the city after dealing with unsettling business in Detroit.  Pullman also had a grand vision to build a society of his own that would house his workers and socially engineer the neighborhood.  This neighborhood would be free of crime and other social woes that were being faced in Chicago.  Pullman purchased 4,000 acres of land but only 600 were for his factory and the rest was for his socially engineered private society, and in 1880 all the construction began.  On New Year’s Day 1881 the first family moved into Pullman’s society, the Benson family, at 11109 St. Lawrence (111th and St. Lawrence).  In that same year the Hotel Florence was finished and many visitors from around the world came to tour this socially engineered town.  The structures of the town and the parks were something to be marveled as working class workers enjoyed brick frame homes with running water and excellent schools which was unheard of for working classes in the city; however, the downfall was residents had to live and behave the way Pullman wanted them too which was criticized as not being an American way of living as it seemed to violate the rights of workers/residents.  In the year 1884 the area became incorporated as the “Town Of Pullman.”  The town continued to add beauty to the neighborhood as workers lived in a clean and desirable environment; the town was then annexed into the city of Chicago in 1889. During the Columbian World’s Exposition fair in 1893 tourism and the desire to live in this community skyrocketed thanks to the fair but this sudden peak of success would bring a down turn once the recession of 1893 took hold of the country and caused Pullman to have to cut wages.  In 1894 workers went on strike nationwide and this striking came to Pullman which was a behavior Pullman was trying to socially engineer around when creating his society but there was no putting down this protest as federal troops were the only ones that could do it.  Workers were upset that Pullman cut wages but not rent in the houses he controlled this brought the further downfall of this prospering town, even though it was recognized as “The World’s Most Perfect Town” at the International Hygienic and Pharmaceutical Exposition in the city of Prague in 1896.  Criticism came from all over the globe that this type of employer to employee relationship was not suitable and should not happen.  In the year 1897 George M. Pullman passed away and the Pullman Car Factory was taken over by Robert Todd Lincoln, then in 1898 the U.S. Supreme Court got involved in this socially engineered community and ordered the entire community except the factory to be sold to private ownership that had nothing to do with the factory, this would defeat the socially engineered community that once fascinated the world.  In the early 1900s decade Pullman became an uninteresting neighborhood which dried up some of the hotel and shopping businesses.  The neighborhood lost a lot of its charm and many residents moved out; however, it still remained a descent Italian, Irish and Polish neighborhood.  The 1930s decade during the Great Depression era brought some hard times in the neighborhood due to unemployment in the Pullman Car Factory and in surrounding industries.  The area also experienced several bootleggers manufacturing illegal alcohol in the early 1930s which gave the neighborhood a bad reputation for being on its way to becoming the next Chicago slum especially since the neighborhood had many older and slightly deteriorated houses.  After the Great Depression the neighborhood was doing well enough again to be considered a decent place to live.   In the early 1960s many white residents became fearful that their neighborhood was going to be taken over by black migration from further north.  African Americans began settling in larger numbers in the nearby Roseland neighborhood and in the Riverdale neighborhood.  White residents of Roseland, Burnside and Pullman were very close knit; therefore, they all banded together to work at keeping out waves of black migration and this resulted in violent action.  In the early 1960s white greaser gangs began forming in the neighborhood that battled blacks from neighboring Roseland.  In the mid-1960s greaser gangs became more prevalent in this community and in Roseland as more blacks moved into Roseland and now the fears from white residents that they were coming to Pullman became more real as blacks were moving closer to the Pullman borders.  The south side Pullman, Burnside, Roseland group started in the mid-1960s that met at the Florence Hotel at 111th and Cottage Grove to discuss how to keep the area from becoming an all-black community, this group met for years in front of the hotel until police deemed it to be a white power group and broke it up.  In the 1970s decade African Americans began moving into the Pullman neighborhood as the whites inflicted violence from mobs of protestors and greaser gangs in the early half of the decade but this did not work because many whites did not respond violently they simply moved out of the neighborhood leaving their homes behind that were old and cheap.  The lowered values of these older homes made it easier for impoverished African American families to take up residence in this community.  In 1977 many of the local industries in South Deering and South Chicago began to lay off many workers and other factories began suffering too, this caused many more white residents to move out of this neighborhood and they took the white greaser gangs with them, now those gangs were being replaced by African American gangs as Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Black P Stones, Vice Lords and Four Corner Hustlers arrived.  In the year 1981 the Pullman Car Factory ceased operations and laid everyone else off, this brought the community more poverty and gangs became a larger threat.  In the early 1980s a settlement of Mexican families moved into the historic southern part of Pullman which still remained a mostly white area but many of the homes were older and now being rented or sold off at cheaper rates, as the Mexicans came to Pullman so did the Latin Kings street gang that had the sole purpose of battling Black Disciples and Gangster Disciples in the area.  Pullman had struggled with poverty and some gang violence all the way up to present day; however, this is not one of the more violent communities in Chicago but is still one of the tougher neighborhoods that experiencing a higher level of violence. This neighborhood became a part of the “Wild 100s” which is a nickname for south side neighborhoods between 100th Street and 130th Street that experience heavy gang activity and violence, even though the violence is not as bad as other Wild 100s neighborhoods, all of Pullman is in this zone.

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