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The Hotel Florence: Drawing Room Stories

The Pullman District of Chicago epitomized the dynamic shift from horse drawn power to the iron horse via the railroad. Built in 1880-84 by wealthy Chicago industrialist, George Pullman as a planned model industrial town for his Pullman Palace Car Company, the district includes the Pullman factory and also the Hotel Florence, named after George Pullman's daughter. The Pullman Company was one of the most famous company towns in the United States, the scene of the violent 1894 Pullman strike and the birthplace of the African American middle class. Shortly after the American Civil War, George Pullman sought out former slaves to work on his sleeper cars. These Pullman Porters served American railroads for 100 years from the late 1860s until late in the 20th Century, their legacy marking the beginning of an African American middle class.

​In this unique Chicago neighborhood, diverse people and their histories have intertwined for several hundred years. The Swedish, Italian and Polish laborers who emigrated to America to work in Pullman’s factory were seeking opportunity. Some succeeded. Others were limited—by race, gender, or economic status.


Their stories and the stories of generations following, are the inspiration for the stories embedded in The Hotel Florence: Drawing Room Stories. Through text, dance and visual installations, Drawing Room Stories will reveal the complexity of this multi-racial community through the voices of present-day residents and historic characters. 


Small group of spectators will visit the drawing rooms, move through hallways and peek into the bedrooms of the hotel, their journey guided by characters in a fictional drama that gradually unfolds over the course of the evening.

The Hotel Florence: Drawing Room Stories will be created as an immersive theater piece staged in the historic Hotel Florence, where the variegated history of Pullman is told through text and movement. The Pullman Porters, imported skilled laborers from Europe, white wealthy hotel guests, white poverty, leaders of the African American Labor Union congregate to retell the history of Pullman as seen through the lens of the 21st Century.


Each room of the Hotel will frame a different historic viewpoint as told by a cast that includes professional dancers and actors from NYC and Chicago, joined by a local cast featuring Pullman historians, Pullman school children, local residents. The performance will feature a prologue performance with horses and dancers created for the park and lawns adjacent  to the Hotel Florence.

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