Founded in the 1880s by George Pullman as a company town for employees at his Pullman Palace Car Company, Pullman was once known as the most famous planned community in America. In an era when most workers lived in run-down tenements near their factories, Pullman provided decent housing and a safe, healthy living environment for his employees. Not only did the residents pay rent to Pullman, they also bought supplies from Pullman's stores, had their children educated at Pullman's schools, and were entertained at a theater owned by Pullman, among other things.

In 1898, nine years after being annexed into the city of Chicago, and four years after a strike by Pullman workers brought about by cuts in pay (with no reduction in rents), the Illinois Supreme Court required the company to sell off all non-manufacturing property to individual buyers.

Although the neighborhood fell on hard times after demand for production at the factory declined, Pullman, with its 900 original rowhouses and public buildings, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971.