The Hotel Florence

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The Hotel Florence

Approaching the front of the Hotel Florence in what today is known as Pullman Park, there were originally no trees, shrubs, or anything but grass on the interior of the stone retaining wall -- nothing to detract from the already ornate Hotel Florence itself. There were beds of shrubs that flanked the sidewalks in the parkways.

The Hotel Florence, ca. 1885
Very early Johnson photograph of the Hotel,
showing its relationship to the Arcade and the
town, ca. 1885.

The rose garden, in the SE corner of the grounds, is not original. It was planted by Pullman residents in 1973, and restored in the late 1990's. In line with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties with Guidelines for the Treatment of Cultural Landscapes, such landscape additions as the rose garden, although not original, will be retained and interpreted as a part of the on-going evolution of a cultural landscape.

The Hotel Florence, itself, exhibits many aspects of the Queen Anne style. The long elegant veranda and the bold north wing containing the parlor achieve a very nice balance. The chimneys are elaborate with rich detail and pilastered sides. The dormers and gables have many elaborate details suggesting the Queen Anne style.

The Hotel Florence, April, 1911 postcard
Postcard from April, 1911, of the Hotel Florence.

Built in 1881, first room was rented in November of that year. The hotel turned a profit the first year it was open. It was build at a cost of $100,000, and the furnishings in Eastlake design from the Tobey Company at a cost of $31,000. First floor and Pullman suite (2nd fl, NW) have cherry woodwork. All other is pine except for oak on 4th floor. The floor in the lobby was encostic tile, laid in a geometric pattern. Original tile exists under the reception desk, and examples can be seen in the foyer of at least one executive home. The other floors were carpeted with carpeting from the Wilton Company.

The first floor had a Ladies' Parlor, a dining room with a capacity of over 100; the remainder of the first floor rooms were "men only:" a reading room, barber shop, billiard room, bar, and office. Unaccompanied ladies who were guests in the hotel used the north entrance to the hotel. Unaccompanied ladies could not register as guests.

The Hotel Florence lobby, ca. 1892
Page from the City of Brick showing the lobby, ca. 1892.

The small Hotel bar (1st. fl. SW) was the only one in town and too expensive for workers who weren't welcome in the Hotel anyway. They went across the I.C.R.R. tracks to Kensington (still called "Bumtown" by older neighborhood residents, because hobos often dropped off there before trains got into the yards downtown). Many breweries build elaborate buildings on Front Street just west of the I.C. tracks to attract customers. One such building remains at 114th and Front Streets.

The Dining room was elegant, and served elaborate meals. It catered especially to industrialists and society leaders. These guests included Diamond Jim Brady, President U.S. Grant, and many famous Europeans. The executive chef had an apartment above the kitchen, and on the third floor was room for his kitchen boys. The head housekeeper (an administrative position) also had an apartment in the same general area.

The Hotel Florence Dining Room, ca. 1892
Page from the City of Brick showing the Dining Room and staff, ca. 1892.

Originally the hotel had about 60 guest rooms. The exact number is uncertain because of changes over the years. These rooms had no closets. Guests used armoirs for their clothes, and most traveled with huge, wardrobe suitcases. Only the suites at the end of each hallway on the second and third floors had private washrooms. Other guests shared toilets down the hall, and would have to make arrangements with a maid to use the separate bathroom. Most rooms could be ensuited to accommodate families. Because there were no elevators, the second floor rooms were designated first class; the third floor, second class; and the fourth floor with small, oddly shaped rooms, (probably for servants who accompanied guests to the hotel) were clearly third class. Each room had a heat sensor wired to the front desk to detect a fire. The original signal board and telegraph box linked the hotel directly to the fire house (originally in the stables) can still be seen behind the desk.. There was also call a button in each room to the front desk to summon a porter.

The hotel was lighted originally with gaslights, equipped with electric spark ignition allowing all lights to be lighted simultaneously. Steam radiators heated the building with steam piped under the street either from the boilers at the factory, or from surplus steam from the hammer forge shop. It is doubtful that pipe tunnels existed under the streets. Evidence to date suggests that the steam piping within the town was of the direct burial type. This steam heated the hotel, the arcade, the church, the market hall and the 111th Street executive homes. This was the second installation of district steam heating in the USA.

The tin covering walls and ceilings is not original and may have been put in when electricity was installed about the turn of the century causing considerable damage to the plastered walls. It will be removed one day.

The Annex was built in 1914 to accommodate both workers and visitors to Pullman. Its future is uncertain. The last resident of the hotel, Pearl White, lived in room 111 of the Annex until the building closed.

See a listing of who lived and worked at the Hotel.

The Pullman Pleasure Club

Very active they were, from several newspaper accounts, and seemed to be an association of high society in Pullman. The Tribune reported on Nov. 18, 1888: The first party of the season of the Pullman Pleasure Club will be given at the Hotel Florence Thanksgiving Eve. This party went over well according to this bit of non-news from the Trib, Dec. 18, 1888: The Pleasure Club, which gave such a successful party at the Hotel Florence last Thanksgiving Eve, will, in the near future, give another reception at the hotel. The club had a good record for parties, since the Tribune reported on Dec. 12, 1886: The Pullman Pleasure Club gave a grand reception at the Hotel Florence last evening... The elegant new hotel was brilliantly illuminated, and presented a very pleasing appearance. Pond's Orchestra furnished the music. Among the guests that night were Solon Beman, Nathan Barrett, and Dr. John McClean, our local surgeon. 1888 seemed to be a good year for the club. On Sep. 30, according to the Tribune, The Independent Pleasure Club of Pullman gave a ball last evening at the Market Hall. About fifty couples were present and had an enjoyable time.

An 1881 Account of the Hotel Florence

Extracted from The Hotel World of October 22, 1881

The Hotel Florence is chiefly remarkable for the elegance and beauty of design and finish, together with its luxury in furniture, fixtures and appliances, all combined making it equal in all respects, save that of size to the most costly hotels in any of the large cities. The building itself cost around $100,000 and the furniture and fixtures $30,000 more. These figures considered in connection with the fact that the hotel only contains about 50 rooms will give an idea of the elegance and luxury of the whole establishment.

The building rises to a height of four stories above the half basement, the upper lines being broken by a fanciful roof of gables and dormer windows, which makes the house resemble a fine large mansion more than it does a hotel. A veranda 16 feet wide and 268 feet long extends along the front and sides of the building which is treated in East Lake and Queen Anne designs, the ceiling being painted a light sky blue, which harmonizes perfectly with the deep red of the brick of which the walls are constructed. A short flight of steps give approach to the central portion of the veranda in front, upon which the office and rotunda opens through wide doors of polished cherry.

Entering the office the counter, of Tennessee marble, surmounted at one end by a handsome cherry desk, is immediately at the left facing towards the dining room and in full view of the entrance to the parlor on the left and the gentlemen's reading room, on the right. Immediately beyond the latter is the billiard room across the hall from which is a lunch room and saloon, designed for the use of visitors and guests of the hotel. Large open fire places welcome you upon entering the office, parlors and dining room. The office floor is laid with pretty designs of Minton tile, and that of the parlor being covered with a heavy Wilton carpet.

The furniture of the parlor is made of solid mahogany and upholstered with heavy Maroon velvet plush. The dining room is immediately across the hall from the parlor and is L shaped. The carving room is immediately beyond the dining room and is fitted with one of Goodwin's carving tables and hot closets made expressly for this hotel. In the rear of the carving room is the kitchen, which is supplied with all the most approved appliances, which include one of Goodwin's Gas Ranges, built also expressly for this hotel.


More Information About the Town of Pullman

Planning the town

4 blueprints of the Market Hall by Solon Beman

The Arcade Journal

Index to the Arcade Journal

The Hotel Florence

The Hotel Florence, ca. 1892

The Arcade

The Arcade, ca. 1910

Arcade Park

Arcade Park, ca. 1895

The Stables

The Pullman Fire Department in front of the Stables

Market Hall

1st Market Hall, 1881-1892

Area Churches

The "Greenstone" Church

Area Schools

Pullman School

The Freight Depot and the Railway Station

The Pullman Freight Depot

Other Pullman Buildings

The Pullman Gas Works

The Pullman House History Project

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 People of Color

Maps of Pullman

1897 Sanborn Map

Other Pullman-Related Sites

  • Historic Pullman Garden Club - An all-volunteer group that are the current stewards of many of the public green spaces in Pullman. (

  • Historic Pullman Foundation - The HPF is a non-profit organization whose mission is to "facilitate the preservation and restoration of original structures within the Town of Pullman and to promote public awareness of the significance of Pullman as one of the nation's first planned industrial communities, now a designated City of Chicago, State of Illinois and National landmark district." (
  • The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum is a 501(c)3 cultural institution. Its purpose is to honor, preserving present and interpreting the legacy of A. Philip Randolph, Pullman Porters, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the contributions made by African-Americans to America's labor movement. ((
  • Pullman Civic Organization - The PCO is a strong and vibrant Community Organization that has been in existence since 1960. (
  • Pullman National Monument - The official page of the Pullman National Park. (
  • South Suburban Genealogical & Historical Society - SSG&HS holds the Pullman Collection, consisting of personnel records from Pullman Car Works circa 1900-1949. There are approximately 200,000 individuals represented in the collection. (
  • The Industrial Heritage Archives of Chicago's Calumet Region is an online museum of images that commemorates and celebrates the historic industries and workers of the region, made possible by a Library Services and Technology Act grant administered by the Illinois State Library. (
  • Illinois Digital Archives (IDA) is a repository for the digital collections libraries and cultural institutions in the State of Illinois and the hosting service for the online images on this site. (