When the Hotel Florence and its Brass Tapper Bar closed, the Pullman Pub took the mantle of “most well known pub in Pullman,” which, sadly, didn’t mean a whole lot considering Pullman’s long decline and inconvenient location for Chicagoland barflies. Combined with the rapidly declining economy in 2008, the Pullman Pub and its intriguing history that dated back over 80 years, has gone the same way as the Brass Tapper Bar and nearby Lucky Lady Pub. There just simply isn’t enough business in the area, even with the influx of Bohemians that have moved into the inexpensive and architecturally significant homes that gave Pullman a bit of a comeback in recent years.
The Pullman Pub was located on the south side of 113th Street, between Champlain and St. Lawrence Avenues, on a quiet block in the historic district of Pullman. The building was reputedly constructed in the 1920s and became a tavern at some point after that, presumably following the end of Prohibition in 1933. The single-room structure of brick and glass block featured a light-colored, polished wooden bar; pool, darts and White Sox on the TV for entertainment; and chips and frozen pizza for nourishment. The pub was mostly frequented by a somewhat diverse crowd of blue collar neighborhood residents and a few that came to visit the ruins of the old Pullman railcar plant. The pub served a basic selection of domestic beer. In later years, the pub became known more as “Humberto’s” after owner Humberto Mancillia.
The claim to fame of the Pullman Pub was its brief cameo in the 1993 film, The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford, who makes a call from the pay phone right before dashing out the front door in pursuit of the one-armed man. The staff wore white shirts with a silhouette of a 1960s-era Fugitive (from the TV show) with “The Fugitives” written upon it.
As for the Pullman Historic District surrounding the pub, this 4,000-acre planned community near Lake Calumet in what was originally Hyde Park Township was purchased in 1879 by George M. Pullman, who built row houses for his employees. These quarters were needed to attract workers and staff his plant of Pullman Palace Cars, which included sleeper and lounge rail cars that were in high demand. The homes were designed by the architect Solon Beman and augmented by landscape architect Nathan Barrett, and the result was modest, yet beautiful homes featuring indoor plumbing and gas that are still attractive today (at least the ones not boarded up). This was in stark contrast to the tenements surrounding most other Chicago factories. Hyde Park Township, was annexed to the City of Chicago in 1889 and, for about 20 years, the area was a worker’s paradise and a major tourist attraction during the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Pullman died in 1897 and his company was taken over by Robert T. Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln. The rise of automobiles steadily eroded the business for passenger rail and, as the demand for Pullman cars ebbed, the neighborhood turned into a slum and the factory was closed in 1957. In order to protect the area from being destroyed, Pullman was deemed a National Historic Landmark District in 1970. Today, the area has virtually no economy as the industrial plants surrounding it have closed over the past 40 years but Pullman still attracts visitors who want to see the remains of this historic community, even though a fire, believed to be arson, destroyed much of the old plant and part of the original clock tower building in 1998. However, the clock tower, Hotel Florence, homes, and other surprising architectural features are still impressive.
Like the fate of the Pullman Pub, so is that of the Pullman neighborhood: intriguing architecture and history mixed in with urban blight and decay, with an uncertain future ahead. One would hope there could be some degree of economic development in the area that could reignite interest in living in this beautiful area, but no plans appear to be at work and we are all left to just hope for the best. The only watering hole left in the area is the Cal-Harbor Restaurant and Lounge, though it closes at 5:45pm daily.