Answers and Questions!

We have our first answer about who designed the factory at Pullman!

An entire team of experts contributed to the design process during the dramatic and exciting buildout. As is so often the case in creative actions later attributed to the charismatic leader, but we can now begin to see the entire working to form a creative community.

A young man named Irving K. Pond served as a draftsperson for S. S. Beman starting in 1880. I mentioned Pond’s autobiography in the last post. Now I’ve read more of his recollections. While Beman was both skilled and fast at drafting, he needed a tracer to help him duplicate plans. We know the building occurred at a tremendous pace and that details and redesigns happened on the fly. Presumably, Beman needed traces of plans so the drawings could be shared among the design team, circulated, marked up, and returned for revision. The plans, elevations, and special detail drawings had become the central tool for sharing information during design and construction.

S. Beman reached out to Jake Doerr, who recruited two young men from the office of the late William LeBaron Jenney: first Will J. Dodd (architect) and shortly thereafter Irving Pond (civil engineer). Both Dodd and Pond were young. Pond had been drawing architecture for only a few weeks, having worked as a draftsperson before that designing marquetry for a cabinet maker.

Mr. Pond published a recollection of the heady times during the factory’s construction and laying out of the town. In 1934, he wrote (p. 6-7):

These heads of departments embraced some of the best known and accomplished engineers in the country. Bennezette Williams, a Sanitary engineer of note; Mechanical Engineer Robinson, whose first name escapes me. Max Hjortsberg, one time chief engineer of the Burlington, laid out the intricate system of trackage. He was accidentally killed by a switch engine in 1880 while inspecting the work with Mr. Pullman and a party of railway magnates. Directing the masonry construction was R. E. Moss, a masonry contractor of wide experience, while the carpentry, including the heavy framing of shop trusses and the fine interior woodwork of church, theatre, dwellings, etc. was under Daniel Martin, an emergency man and bridge constructor on the Burlington under the lamented Hjortsberg. Representing Barrett continually was engineer Sargent, director of the ground work.

He went on to comment (p. 7):

Mr. Beman was head of this band of strong men and he was director of all the work excepting only the operation of the car shops. The petty jealousies which have been known to arise between departments in great organizations were absent here although they may have developed within some particularly department now and then….

Full size details were often laid on rough floors of a building under construction; while details for wood and cabinet work were drawn In the temporary wood working shop, and stone details were laid out by the architectural draughtsmen in the company’s stone yards or on the job. It was hectic work for a while but the good-fellowship generally existing permitted the stream of construction to flow smoothly.

This has been an amazing week at different archives and libraries in Chicago and the area. I have many stories to tell, but this one is my favorite insight so far. Now we have some names to continue chasing. I have many questions:

Was Max Hjortsberg the “track and shop engineer” that Pond mentioned in his autobiography? If so, did Mr. Hjortsberg work at the Detroit shops for Pullman in 1879 or did Pullman recruit him from the Burlington?

Were these the experts that S. S. Beman worked with in 1879 when he toured erecting shops?

More research to come!



Irving K. Pond (1934) “Pullman—America’s First Planned Industrial Town, by a Collaborator and Eyewitness” Illinois Society of Architects Monthly Bulletin 19(June-July):6-8.

The plot thickens!

Steven Walton and I are in Chicago this week to visit a whole series of archives for the Pullman Heritage Project. We have very targeted questions this week– learning about the design and evolution of the Palace Car Erection Shops as associated industrial buildings. We will deal with bigger and broader questions in later visits.

If you’ve been wondering about the factory design, the plot thickens! I was reading about the architects involved in the design and drawing of Pullman. In The Autobiography of Irving K. Pond (2009). He described his youth on the project, including this passage (Swan and Tatum 2009: 81):

Land had been acquired on the western border of Lake Calumet and far to the south, and a track and shop engineer had been working in conjunction with an Architect and landscape architect; and by the end of 1879 the general plan had reached a nearly complete development. In the spring of 1880 the plan in great part was ready for the third dimension…

So who is the Track and Shop Engineer that worked with S. S. Beman on the design of the factories? We will try and find this out during this week!

Designing Pullman’s Factory and a Mysterious Find

Solon Spenser Beman and Nathan F. Barrett designed George Pullman’s factory and community, starting in 1879. Beman designed the buildings and Barrett the landscaping and organization. When construction began, Barrett laid out the footprints while Beman supervised construction through a bonanza-like rush of building between May of 1880 and April of 1882. Stanly Buder (1967:49-59) summarized the fantastical rate and scale of the operation, widely reported in newspapers and magazines. Dr. Buder quoted draftsman Irving Pond’s recollection that the design and revision process happened so quickly that staff often fleshed out plan details on the the floors of buildings as they were being built. Beman found the process exhausting and he took a break in January of 1881, taking time to travel to his New York home.

These events interest us for several reasons. First, this gives a good window on the social process of creating the factory and town. The effort required the coordinated creative labor of hundreds of people and as such, we must learn to see a building like the Palace Car Erecting Shop as the realization of the collective vision of many people, including the architect but also the masons, ironworkers, carpenters, machinists, brickmakers, and so on, as well as the people who lived and worked in these spaces. The material evidence of this collective creativity is fossilized in the masonry, concrete, and organization of the works.

Second, and more urgent for the current study, is that the material evidence provides unique evidence about the design process. A workplace may be designed by one person; built by another; inhabited, used, revised by a third; and redesigned and rebuilt by still another. The physical remains often reveal clues as to how that process occurred. Because the material evidence is independent of what people wrote about the design, it adds a new stream of evidence to counterbalance textual and photographic sources as we tell the stories of the Pullman factory.

Very few architects had designed factories in 1879 and 1880. The process by which S. S. Beman and George Pullman interacted to design the factory is known in outline, but not detail. Beman was 27 years old when he won this commission, experienced in residential structure design. Beman had never designed a factory, however. Most architects considered industrial architecture to be beneath the aesthetic missions of their field. So how did Solon arrive at his design?

This is really important, since both the architect and the owner invested so much in this idea. The Pullman factory and community were an experiment intended to do nothing less than transform the practice of industrial capitalism. For his part, George Pullman claimed that the design of the factory (and the town) was a logical extension of the “Pullman System”: beautiful/quality, ordered, functional, scale, and consistency. Many of these themes would have resonated with an architect at this time.

Masthead of The Railway Age Monthly and Railway Service Magazine, Vol 1, No. 5. Chicago, May 1880.

Pullman’s project set the world buzzing with interest. The print media of Chicago printed updates on construction and witness accounts were printed around the world. One of these articles appeared in the fifth issue of the inaugural volume of The Railway Age Monthly and Railway Service Magazine (Vol 1, No. 5. Chicago, May 1880). The RAMRSM claimed this article, “Proposed Car Shops of Pullman’s Palace Car Company,” was the first authorized public statement about the planned construction of the works. The magazine printed a large map, included below, and asserted that the shops would be the largest and most complete rail car erecting shops in the world. The essay reports that the layout of the works will be “compactly located as regards each other” providing for the efficient movement of materials and people, will include “Only first class machinery,” and will be “provided with numerous turn tables so that cars can be run in and out without switches.”

Of particular interest is this sentence: “The plans of these great works have now been fully elaborated, down to the location of every piece of machinery, and work will be commenced as soon as the final selection of location [is complete]” (p. 269).

The suggestion of very detailed and thoughtful planning in factory design is reflected elsewhere. Bessie Pierce translated the report of French economist de Roussiers about the works (1933, quoted in Buder 1967:58):

The planning of these workshops is remarkable, and every detail seems to have been considered. To cite one point, the buildings in which the freight-cars are built are a series of vast sheds as broad as the cars are long. Opposite each car a large bay opens on the iron way and a car, as soon as it is finished, runs along the rails and leaves the shop. All the timber that forms a car is cut to the required size and is got ready for fitting together in a special department, whence it is brought along the same rails to the sheds where the car is built. Tiny little locomotives are running along the lines which are built in the spaces between the various workshops…. Everything is done in order and with precision; one that no blow of a hammer, no turn of a wheel is made without cause. One feels that some brain of superior intelligence, backed by a long technical experience, has thought out every possible detail.”

Buder noted that Beman invested great care in planning movement and flow of materials and personnel, installing more than 20 miles of track through the facility. He used bridges to connect the second and third stories of nearby buildings so workers would not have to descend, cross a light railway, and the climb up again to complete a task.

So, again, how did Solon come to this design? We want to know this because it provides a starting point from which we can interrogate the material evidence about life-history of the Pullman factory: as-designed, as-built, as-lived and as-used, then redesigned, used, redesigned, used, redesigned, and so forth until abandonment and demolition.

It is safe to say that in 1878, Solon Bemen knew nothing about rail car manufacture or erecting shops. He must have spent a great deal of time with George Pullman and other company staff talking about production. Stan Buder explained that Bemen visited Pullman’s Detroit yard in mid-November of 1879. He then left for New York and visited a series of car shops along the way during the trip. We still need to research the archival material left by Bemen and see what we can learn about these trips.

This map that accompanied the RAMRSM article is really interesting and a bit mysterious. It is a measured plan of the buildings, showing their arrangement. Presumably Pullman’s staff sent this drawing to the magazine. This is the first graphic representation of the Pullman factory that we’ve been able to find.

Proposed Car Shops of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Drawing from page 269 of The Railway Age Monthly and Railway Service Magazine, Vol 1, No. 5. Chicago, May 1880

Readers can compare this with the map below, which represents “as-built” and then “as-lived” for the employees working during Pullman’s first decade in operation in Chicago.

Rasher’s 1892 version of the 1886 base fire insurance map. Portion of scan courtesy of University of Illinois Map Library.

The comparison is really interesting, since the layout of buildings in the 1880 plans is similar to what was actually built. Had Bemen worked out the process flow through the factory already by the time they released this map to the magazine? When did George Pullman select the final site for the factory on the land acquired by the Pullman Land Company? When did Bemen make the final adjustments to the design for layout?

If we can find the production records, we hope to be able to answer many of these questions!

Pullman Mapquest

One of our first research tasks is to develop a spatial chronology that shows the development of the Pullman Palace Car Company’s Erecting Shops. We need to do this to provide a spatial and temporal structure around which we can discuss work at the factory:

  • How did the process flow while building a palace sleeper car? Were there work stations? How were they connected? Can we follow a car from parts to rolling out onto the rail?
  • How did a particular worker move around the factory while completing tasks? By contrast, how did different activity areas connect in space?
  • Where in the process were employees most autonomous and where were they most closely observed? How/Why?
  • If we think about flow and movement, of employees and products, energy and waste, what patterns emerge and how do they change over time?

In order to do this study, we’re looking for primary documents like maps, plans, blueprints, and photos, along with textual sources like ledgers and shop reports.

Funny thing– there are excellent documents like these in the collection of the Newberry Library. The maps and drawings held in the Newberry have details like these:

  1. These first three drawings are of the Calumet Works, the maintenance shops at the Pullman Company operations on Lake Calumet.

The Chief Mechanical Officer kept all the blueprints and drawings of the maintenance shops and laundries in one place, eventually binding them into oversize books.


2. What is great about these maps, as you can see with these examples from the Wilmington Shops in Delaware, is that the plans are often ‘traces’ of older maps with layers of sketches and markings (here in yellow and red) for proposed additions, changes, and developments.




These maps include all kinds of improvements to the factory systems.

3. Most exciting, in terms of our current project, is that these maps sometimes include amazing levels of detail about how work was structured and organized within the space of the workshop floor. Look at these examples from the Richmond Shops that include machine locations and work spaces, complete with a key!

This level of detail is excellent and would give us tremendous insight into how the erecting shops were laid out (as designed) and perhaps how workers then used them as they modified their work areas. We could call that “as lived” or “as used” spatial organization.

Do you know where we can find any maps like these for the Palace Car Erecting Shops? Newberry doesn’t have those, which I’ll try and explain in my next post. But if you have information about maps like these, we’d love to hear from you!

You could really help us with our research if you have any leads!