IMAGE: Pullman Factory Administration Building and Lake Vista (circa 1886)
CCSJ Professor Mark Cassello will hold a presentation and discussion titled, “Developing History” about the recent history of the newly established Pullman National Monument on Chicago’s South Side.
The presentation will take place on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at 7:00 p.m.in Room 200 as part of CCSJ’s Annual Humanities Festival.
In particular, Cassello will discuss a proposed affordable housing project known as the “Pullman Artspace Lofts” to be constructed within the authorized boundaries of the Pullman National Monument and the Pullman National Historic Landmark District.
Cassello’s presentation will touch upon the common theme of the challenge to preserve cultural memory in a constantly transforming urban landscape, where social, political and economic interests within the community constantly collide.
The South Side Chicago neighborhood of Pullman is considered the first planned industrial community in the United States. It was created by railcar magnate George Pullman in the early 1880s to house his employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company.
What was declared in 1896 to be the “World’s Most Perfect Town,” Pullman was designed to be a masterpiece of architectural and technological innovation. Architect S.S. Beman designed the buildings—everything from workers’ cottages to a massive factory complex—beginning when he was only 26. These all brick structures were nestled in lush landscapes and arranged according to the vision of landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett.
But Pullman’s utopia wouldn’t last. An economic downturn in 1893, led to serious reductions in wages. Workers complained that George Pullman should reduce workers’ rents if he was going to cut their wages. From May to June 1894, the nation watched a bitter labor dispute, The Pullman Strike unfold. Eventually the National Guard was sent in by President Grover Cleveland to break the strike and to maintain peace in Pullman.
In 2015, the Pullman National Historic District was designated a national monument by President Obama due to its significant contributions industrial, labor, and social history—including the role of the Pullman Porters, the African American workforce whose impeccable service made Pullman’s enterprise a lucrative business.
But with Pullman’s national monument designation came controversy. Questions have emerged about which of Pullman’s historic resources are to be protected, by whom, and how.
Cassello explains that the event will begin by tracing the history of the Pullman National Monument to the present day explaining the historical and architectural significance of the site that led to its status as a national monument. Following this, he will offer an explanation of the concept behind the proposed “Pullman Artspace Lofts,” providing an overview of who supports and opposes the project and its relative advantages and disadvantages. In particular, the question of whether or not such a project should be permitted to degrade the integrity of Pullman’s historic resources.
As a Pullman resident, the project is very close to Cassello’s heart because he is proud of the historical status of his community. Beyond raising awareness about an important historical event and its significance today, Cassello hopes to educate students on specific strategies for creating change in their communities.
“The Pullman community’s varying responses to the proposed Pullman Artspace Lofts reveal the real and perceived limits of the power individuals have over their built environment,” explained Cassello
Cassello hopes students “will learn how community development projects are conceived and the broad range of stakeholders [in] them, as well as, ways that they can intervene in the process to influence or even stop projects that have the potential to harm their communities.”
Following Humanities Festival’s theme of creation, the Pullman National Monument discussion examines how modern spaces are created without compromising their relation to the past. At the same time, how an inclusive and transparent planning process can help define a community’s future vision while respecting its past.
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The Shavings is looking for writers! If you are interested in writing for The Shavings, please contact the Editor, Hannah Carr, or the Advisor, Professor Cassello.
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Calumet College of St. Joseph
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