Chicago/Far Southeast Side

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Introduction

The Far Southeast Side of Chicago is a huge section of Chicago with only one large tourist draw: the Pullman Historic District. Most travelers will literally just pass over this district on the Chicago Skyway, but look closely and something may catch your eye. The Far Southeast side is vast, but has a much lower population density than the rest of the city and consequently less to offer a visitor in terms of amenities and attractions. As it is so big, it is easier to think of the Far Southeast Side in terms of its neighborhoods.

Greater Pullman (Pullman, Roseland, West Pullman, Riverdale) is the one dish on the menu for 99% of the Far Southeast Side's visitors. It is home to the Historic Pullman District, important to American history for its early planned industrial/railroad community and subsequent strikes and socialist activism, as well as its attractive and unique architecture.

Southeast Shore (South Chicago, South Deering, East Side, Hegewisch) is a once prosperous industrial region around the mouth of the Calumet River ("The Port of Chicago") that imploded along with Chicago's steel industry. Today it is one of the least populous areas of Chicago and ranges from industrial to failed-post-industrial in character. The East Side is the most urban section of this vast expanse and has a nice commercial center along 106th St. Hegewisch is a particularly odd neighborhood — it is cut off from the rest of the city by Calumet Lake and huge manufacturing districts. As a result, the neighborhood feels almost like an independent, small, Midwestern industrial town (and indeed, a certain mayor not long ago forgot it was part of the city). Though the area has few urban attractions, the Southeast Shore does offer outdoor opportunities around Wolf Lake and Eggers Woods. (But if you are adverse to factory-vistas on the horizon, you may choose to overlook these attractions.)

The history of Pullman — the first modernist planned community in the United States — is a tragic one. George Pullman, the founder, was a liberal railroad tycoon with a reputation as a "welfare capitalist." He founded the Pullman company town with the intention of creating a perfect industrial community which would avoid the vice and extreme poverty found in urban industrial communities and therefore also avoid related worker unrest. To accomplish his goal, he built a very attractive landscaped town in the countryside to the south of Chicago. The company provided wages significantly higher than national averages and state-of-the-art utilities. He met widespread acclaim for his town, including an award for the "World's Most Perfect Town", and visitors came to see Pullman (and the World's Fair Columbian Exposition) from places as far away as Europe.

A lesson in paternalism and central planning, Pullman controlled nearly every aspect of his resident workers lives. A famous quote sums up this paternalism problem nicely, "We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shop, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman church, and when we die we shall be buried in the Pullman cemetery and go to the Pullman Hell." The failures of the Pullman company town foreshadowed later 20th-century planned communities which had similarly good intentions, but disastrous effects (e.g., the Ida B Wells housing projects of Bronzeville).

Following the severe 1893 economic downturn, Pullman company wages decreased while housing and utility costs remained the same, prompting large-scale violence and strikes known collectively as The Pullman Strike. The strike shut down the Chicago rail system, effectively cutting off all transportation in the western half of the U.S. President Grover Cleveland ended the strike by sending in 2,000 U.S. Army troops, the result of which left 13 strikers dead and many more injured.

The Pullman Strike played a significant role in U.S. labor and civil rights history, as A. Phillip Randolph would later rise to prominence in both areas of activism by organizing the largely African-American "Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters," a union for the employees of the Pullman Company. Having attained some prominence, Randolph went on to become one of the nation's foremost advocates of civil rights for African-Americans. His achievements and the history of African-Americans in U.S. labor are celebrated today in Pullman's A. Phillip Randolph Museum.

Since the 1970s the Pullman neighborhood, especially the historic district, has gentrified and experienced a racial shift as wealthier, white Chicagoans moved into the neighborhood, attracted by the rich architecture and history. Sites and homes of historical interest are being painstakingly (and slowly) restored. The neighborhood has a very quiet, sleepy feel, so be sure to visit either on a tour or while the museum and visitor center are open, or you might leave disappointed.

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Sights and Activities

A Philip Randolph/Pullman Porter Museum, 10406 S Maryland Ave, ☏ +1-773-928-3935. Open April-Dec 1, Th-Sa 11AM-4PM and in Feb for scheduled Black History events.. The museum, a tribute to A. Phillip Randolph, focuses on African-American culture and history, the Pullman Historic District, and U.S. Labor history. The interior has a big and rare manual tracker Organ. Admission $5.
Greenstone Church, 11211 S Saint Lawrence Ave, ☏ +1-773-785-1492. A landmark church in the heart of the historic Pullman community. It was initially intended to be a Unitarian church, where all the workers would go to service. That did not catch on and the church sat empty for years before becoming a Presbyterian and then Methodist church. edit
Pullman National Monument Information Center, 11141 S Cottage Grove Ave, ☏ +1-773-785-8901, fax: +1-773-785-8182, ✉ foundation@pullmanil.org. T-Su 11AM-3PM. The first stop to any Pullman visit houses a 20 minute video about the town's history, several exhibits, and a gift shop. Offers guided walking tours every first Sunday of the month, as well as events and self-guided tour brochures. Be sure to head around to the back of the building (North side) to check out the impressive mural, "Visual Interpretations of Pullman," which depicts the former Pullman Arcade building coupled with an interpretation of the Pullman town and its laborers. 2 hour guided walking tours: 7$, 5$ (seniors), 4$ (students).
Hotel Florence, 11111 S Forrestville Ave, ☏ +1 773-660-2341. By appointment M-F 10AM-4PM. The Hotel Florence, named after Pullman's favorite daughter, is the most splendid building in the district. It was built in 1881 to accommodate visitors from all over the United States and Europe who came to see Pullman's "perfect town." The hotel is closed as it is going through a $1.2 million restoration and renovation program, but interior tours, focused on the restoration itself, can be arranged through the Historic Pullman Foundation.
Illinois-Indiana State Line Boundary Marker, Avenue G, near 103rd St (located on the Illinois-Indiana State Boundary Line). An Obelisk marking the State Line between Illinois and Indiana near Lake Michigan just south of Calumet Park and beach along a small road leading to the front gate of the State Line Generating Station.
Market Square (Two blocks east of the Visitor Center at the intersection of E 112th St and S Champlain Ave). Market Square is just lovely. The Market Hall, which served as a grocery store, is being restored as it has suffered from several fires over the years.
Pilgrim Baptist Church of South Chicago, 3235 E 91st St, ☏ +1-773-374-3888. The Church from the Blues Brothers where James Brown played the lively reverend.
Pullman Clock Tower and Factory, 111th St and Cottage Grove Ave (just north of the Hotel Florence), ☏ +1-773-660-2341. One of the world's most beautiful factories is undergoing a $3.4 million restoration, after it was badly damaged in 1998 by an arsonist. 90 minute guided tours, which focus on the restoration itself, are available by advance appointment.
Southeast Historical Museum, 9801 S Avenue G (in the Calumet Park Fieldhouse), ☏ +1-312-747-6039. Th 1PM-4PM. A small history museum with exhibits celebrating the area's once mighty steel industry and Labor history.

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Events and Festivals

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Getting There

By Train

The CTA is not a great way to get to the Far Southeast, as there is only the 95th/Dan Ryan stop in the north of Roseland, far away from everything and anything of interest.

The Metra Electric Line is the best public transportation bet for traveling to the Far Southeast as it has numerous stops in convenient locations. The Pullman/111th St and Kensington/115th St stops on the main line are located right next to the Pullman Historic District. The Metra Electric also stops in South Chicago on a separate branch from Downtown with several stops at major street before ending at 93rd Street in South Chicago. The South Shore serves Hegewisch via the first and only stop in Illinois not shared with Metra on the way to South Bend, Indiana. It also stops at Kensington/115th St on inbound trips to Chicago from Indiana.

By Car

Since this is the least densely populated section of Chicago, a car is the most convenient method of travel. Free on-street parking is plentiful.

The most important highway for getting around is route I-94 along the Dan Ryan Expy and further south along the Bishop Ford Fwy. Exit at 111th for Historic Pullman or to get to Michigan Ave in Roseland, otherwise 95th and 103rd (to 106th) are useful to cross over to the East Side, and 130th is the exit of choice for Hegwisch.

The Chicago Skyway is the other main highway, which cuts across the East Side on its way to Indiana. Exits 108 (Anthony Ave/92nd St) and 110 (Indianapolis Blvd/US-20/US-41) will both let you off on the East Side, from which Historic Pullman and Hegwisch are both relatively easy drives. US-41, which cuts through the northeastern section of the East Side, is the old pre-Skyway route along the lake, and is way slower, but a good deal more interesting (and toll-free). It connects up with Lake Shore Drive farther north.

103rd/106th, and 130th Streets are the main roads for traversing the industrial wastelands lying between the western and eastern neighborhoods in the south of the district.

By Bus

To an extent, buses can get you from point to point in the district, but there are no good routes coming here from the city center. If arriving by the CTA Red Line, you can take bus #111 from the 95th/Dan Ryan stop straight to the Pullman Historic District. On the southeast side bus #30 runs between South Chicago East Side and Hegewisch along South Chicago Ave, Ewing Ave and Avenue O serving both the end of the Metra at 93rd Street and the South Shore Line at Hegewisch. East-west transportation is difficult, owing to the industrial wasteland (and Lake Calumet) in the middle.

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Eat

Not a lot of four-star dining in these parts, but if you know what to look for, some of the best eating in the city is to be had in its far southeast reaches. The undisputed king of the donut is here, as is the long-reigning champion of shrimp shacks (Old Fashioned Donuts and Calumet Fisheries). Hand-Burgers has a good claim to the title of "best burger in the city." And if you like pupusas, or more generally Central American cuisine, it's time to make the trek.

Harold's Chicken Shack #35, 12700 S Halsted St, ☏ +1-773-785-4153. 11AM-2AM daily. This particular location of the great South Side fried chicken chain is an exceptional find for one reason — a drive thru window! As always, cheap, usually a little dirty, and always delicious. $2-5.
Old Fashioned Donuts, 11248 S Michigan Ave, ☏ +1-773-995-7420. M-Sa 6AM-6PM. Michigan Ave in Roseland is far out o the way, and not a pleasant place for a stroll, but this nearly 40 year old establishment is worth the trek for some of the freshest, most mouth-watering donuts you'll ever have. Old Fashioned Donuts is written up in the main Chicago papers every year as having the best donuts in the city (Dat Donuts is a mere tribute band). $0.20-2.
Skyway Doghouse, 9480 S Ewing Ave, ☏ +1-773-731-2000. Su noon-8PM daily. This is about as far from the city center as you can get, but this ramshackle little hot dog stand serves up some of Chicago's best hot dogs. They've got a drive thru, and there are usually a couple hungry squad cars "refueling" in the line. The picnic tables outside are a great place to soak up the local atmosphere, watching riced-out cars and other hungry patrons roll by. $2-4.
Calumet Fisheries, 3259 E 95th St, ☏ +1-773-933-9855. Su-W 10AM-9:45PM, Th 9AM-9:30PM, F-Sa 9AM-9:45PM. One of the last great waterside shrimp and fish shacks from the glory days of the Port of Chicago. Calumet Fisheries offers all sorts of breaded and fried seafood, but the slow-smoked offerings might be the top draw. They recognize this too — they advertise their smoked chubs as "fish crack." The atmosphere here is just right too, it's right by the 95th St bridge (which the Blues Brothers jumped in their car), and boasts some serious industrial vistas. Featured on Anthony Bourdain's show. $7-18.
The Cal Harbor Restaurant, 546 E 115th St, ☏ +1-773-264-5435. M-Sa 5:30AM-5:45PM, Su 6AM-5:45PM. Serving the historic Pullman neighborhood, a classic South Side diner with all that entails. 3-9$.
Hienie's Shrimp House, 10359 S Torrence Ave, ☏ +1-773-734-8400. Su-Th 11AM-midnight, F-Sa 11AM-1AM. Hienie's has been around for decades (albeit not in the same spot) and proudly upholds grand tradition of roadside shacks full of fried seafood and chicken catering to industrial workers. Their shrimp and gizzards are simply outstanding, and their hot sauce is beloved enough by the East Siders that it's made its way into local grocery stores. Any way you slice it, the piping hot, cholesterol laden, made to order food here will be great, but it's best enjoyed on the hood of your car while gazing off into the nearby smokestacks. $4-17.
Ranch Steak House, 11147 S Michigan Ave, ☏ +1-773-264-0320. M-F 7AM-3PM, Sa-Su 7AM-7PM. This steak house, despite the inauspicious location, in which true restaurants with table service are extremely rare, is actually quite good and strikingly cheaper than what you would pay for comparable food downtown. $10-15.
Pudgy's Pizzeria, 13460 S Baltimore Ave, ☏ +1-773-646-4199. Su-Th 4PM-11PM, F-Sa 4PM-midnight. There are a lot of good pizzerias in Hegwisch, most of them bearing a name oddly similar to Pudgy's, but this is the great one. The Chicago-style thin crust pizzas here hold up well against the best in the city, with the famous entree being the garlic-drenched "Bob's Mistake." Downsides include high prices (for thin crust) and very limited seating — just two small tables, usually taken up by people waiting for their order. $5-30.

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Drink

If you're in Pullman and in the mood for a beer, you're in for more trouble than you would think. The famous Pullman Pub closed not too long ago under mysterious circumstances (asking a local about this is a very good way to start a conversation). If you like an early afternoon tipple, try the Frank Loyd Wright-style golf course club house off of 111th Street just before I-94 (open April through October); the Cal Harbor also has a bar, which is sometimes open, sometimes not. Otherwise head over to the better options on the East Side on 106th or in Hegewisch.

Club 81, Too, 13157 S Avenue M, ☏ +1-773-646-4292. 11AM-2AM daily. The bar at the end of Chicago. Seriously, if you stumble out the wrong way, you'll fall into Wolf Lake. Old-timey moose-head decor might make you long for those bygone days of a fine cigar with your evening's whiskey, but even without the smoke, this is a great place for a beer with the establishment's legendary fish fry or Polish food.
Crow Bar Inc., 4001 E 106th St, ☏ +1 -73-768-6985. 10AM-2AM daily. Probably the nicest neighborhood bar on the East Side (although, that said, the nicest bar in East Side is called Crow Bar), with strong drinks, friendly clientele, and sports on the television. Amazingly you can smoke here, despite the ban, as the owner openly flouts it, keeping a "smoking tip jar" as a collection for paying the fines. It's also not a bad place to grab a corned beef sandwich.
Small World Inn, 3325 E 106th St, ☏ +1-773-721-2727. 11AM-11PM daily. This would seem to be yet another run of the Mill workingman's watering hole, except for the fact that it has served as a Yugoslav-American cultural center for decades. A drink here is a pleasant occasion, but focus on the menu — the Serbian cevapcicci (cheh-VAHP-chee-chee) will open your eyes to sausage possibilities you never knew existed. Entrees: $3-8.
Steve's Lounge, 13200 S Baltimore Ave, ☏ +1-773-646-1071. Tu-F 2PM-close, Sa-Su 3PM-close. One of the favorite (and most prominently-located) bars in Hegewisch, renowned not simply for being a nice laid-back bar, but also for their legendary fried chicken. Their dining area is only open on Fridays 4PM-8PM, but you can get the fried chicken to go whenever you like if you call ahead of time.

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Sleep

None of the Far Southeast Side's hotels are very nice and they are far from most of what you want to see in the city, so think carefully about whether it might make sense to stay elsewhere before you book a room.

Skyway Motel, 9132 S Stony Island Ave, ☏ +1-773-221-6600. Offers king-size beds, televisions, clock radios, and some furniture. $50 for ten hours, $66 overnight.
Royal Castle Motel, 45 W 103rd St, ☏ +1-773-468-8100. Just off State Street in Roseland. $50 for ten hours, $60 overnight.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 3. Last edited at 9:35 on Sep 24, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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