The rehabilitation of 1870s brick tenements, now the Pullman Artspace Lofts, has brought new affordable housing opportunities to the Pullman community. Developer Artspace joined with Chicago Neighborhood Initiative (CNI) and PullmanArts to preserve the property. MHA Chicago provided federal and state historic tax credit consulting for the project. Architecture firm Stantec won a competition for the design of the development’s new construction infill building and worked on the rehabilitations of the two historic structures.
The Pullman Artspace Lofts consist of 38 apartments housed in two historic tenement buildings—originally known as Block Houses A and C—and a new building constructed on the former site of Block House B that was demolished in 1938. The $18.1 million development also contains 2,000 square feet of community space, including a community gallery, working studio, meeting space, and classroom space for residents of Pullman.
All 38 housing units are reserved for low-income families. Priority is given to low-income artists and their families, and eight units are reserved for individuals with supportive services needs through the state referral network. Pullman Artspace, LLC is also partnering with the Catholic Charities to place disabled veterans in four of the units.
George M. Pullman developed the Town of Pullman between 1880 and 1893 to house manufacturing facilities and worker housing to support his growing train car production company, the Pullman Palace Car Company. Designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman and landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett, the town was the country’s first and most elaborate planned industrial community. The factory complex and administration building served as the center of the town. A town square included a hotel, stables, a church, and a large arcade building that housed stores, a library, a bank, and a theater.
The original block houses were erected during the original 1881 construction phase to house the lowest wage-earning employees and were designed to create a physical barrier between the factories and the groupings of single-family housing.
The Pullman Historic District received State Landmark Status in 1969, National Landmark status in 1971, and a City of Chicago Landmark designation in 1972. In 2015, President Barack Obama named the Pullman Historic District a National Monument. The site commemorates the history of Pullman as the first planned industrial town in the US; it also honors the struggles of Pullman employees who organized the 1894 Pullman strike, and African American porters, led by A. Philip Randolph, who fought for better working conditions in the 1920s and 1930s.
With the rehabilitation of the Block Houses A and C, the project team restored the exterior buildings to their original appearance. While much of the historic interiors of the buildings had been extensively altered, the preservation team focused on saving the remaining historic features while sensitively adapting the spaces for new uses. The historic staircases with wood newel posts and beadboard railings were retained in both buildings, and the units inboard transformed into bright, airy live-work apartments.
Currently, the lofts house multi-media artists, painters, photographers and musicians. In the apartments, careful design consideration was made to ensure the spaces would be optimal for all types of art. Tall ceilings and wide doorways allow for the space for creation and transportation of larger works. The hallways were left empty so residents could display their work and encourage community interaction.
- Landmarks Illinois | 2021 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Rehabilitation
- Commission on Chicago Landmarks | 2020 Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence
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