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Hotel Florence update

QhYuSzH7xAP6tVtwBIuLqLluwlPjgCN4jj06MNlD57YAs one of the Pullman Factory volunteer tour guide docents, I recently attended a Pullman Historic Site Volunteer’s Appreciation event. In case you haven’t visited Pullman in many years, and have the notion that there isn’t much going on, the lively and congenial event was attended by more than 30 Pullmanites and Roselandites, all volunteers for various Pullman State Historic Site events.

The event was hosted by Andy and Linda Bullen in their beautifully appointed home on East 111th Street. Linda is the curator at the Pullman State Historic Site while Andy is responsible for digitizing photos and materials for the state. His expertise is viewed every time someone goes to the fantastic Pullman-Museum.org site. Everyone joined in conversations over a variety of wine, cheeses and crackers, reminiscing about various Pullman events and pending actions like the Art Space Project or the National Park designation. The conversation flowed freely, as did the wine, until Linda served notice that she and Mike Wagenbach, superintendent of the Pullman Historic Site, were ready to make an update presentation on the status of the various projects concerning the Hotel Florence.

The hotel has been closed since late 2011 while undergoing a series of reconstruction, repair and rehabilitation projects. There was hope that the hotel would have reopened by this time, but as work was being done on the site, the need for additional projects became evident. In the same vein, projects that were tied to the completion of other projects were given the go-ahead. All of this has resulted in the Hotel remaining closed at this point. While there is no firm date in mind for the reopening, the ongoing improvement phases definitely put the reopening on the horizon.

A most socially important aspect of the Hotel that many Pullmanites and Roselandites are familiar with is the bar and restaurant that used to operate in the Hotel. The bar has been gone for many years while the restaurant, where many of our friends worked, has been shuttered for more than 10 years. The story has been that the hotel isn’t suitable for a food establishment as it stands at this time. However, the State of Illinois has published a request for bids for a concession to be established within the Hotel Florence. The type of establishment is dependent on the specifics of the bids that are offered for consideration. I’m certain it won’t be the same as the previous restaurant as that incarnation didn’t prove to be profitable. Times change and I’m certain the offerings will be in keeping with the times.

Mike Wagenbach made his presentation in which he discussed the fact that, not only have new bathrooms been installed, but the first floor and the lower level, where the restrooms are located, are all handicap accessible as well as the bathrooms. This means that if you have a problem walking, you will no longer have difficulty in visiting the Hotel, or have to face the task of walking up stairs.

The handicap accessibility factors extend to an elevator which has been installed to run from the first floor to the lower-level restrooms. The elevator equipment is in place, if the state funds should become available, to continue to the second floor also making it handicap accessible.

Floor tiles are being replicated to match the original first-floor tiles. Upon removal of the present flooring, it was discovered that the sub-foundation for the tiles (a concrete foundation was always poured to create an even floor), held an impression of the position of any built-in partitions. Due to these impressions, it is now possible to determine the location of the original floor molding.

The tin-plate ceiling proved not to be the original ceiling, which had been covered over throughout the years of improvements/remodeling to the property. The original ceiling was plaster, and not tin-plate at all, and will be re-plastered to match the original.

While discussing the ceiling in the main dining room, Mike mentioned that the two ceiling lights that seemed to have been original were also improvements. The actual lighting fixtures numbered four and their positions became apparent once the non-original tin-plate ceiling tiles were removed.

In redoing the lower level, it was realized that the foundation needed further attention than was anticipated. This was the original cause for change in plans concerning a possible reopening date. It was fortunate, due to the fact that as time and work efforts proved, there was indeed the need for more time to complete tasks in a more permanent and pleasing manner.

Photos of the various phases of the reconstruction of the Hotel Florence can be viewed online at Pullman-Museum.org. All of the volunteers in attendance at the event are volunteers with the Pullman State Historic Site, which includes the Hotel Florence and grounds, and the entire Pullman Factory Site.

Mike and Linda finished their presentation with an extended round of applause for the efforts of all of the Pullman Historic Site volunteers in keeping Pullman a vital, lively community representative of the true life-blood of the town of Pullman that good old George Pullman had envisioned — only without any labor strife.

Some of the events that occur in Pullman throughout the year are the Labor Day Bike Ride, Pullman House Tour (the second weekend of October), Labor Day Weekend Music Love-In, Friends of Pullman Annual Picnic, Sunday Morning Brunch Club (of which I was the March host), Wine Club (of which I was the January host), Garden Club, Senior Club Bingo, St. Anthony Posada (of which I was a December host), George Pullman’s Birthday at the Visitor’s Center, and numerous block parties. It goes without saying that anyone can show up as a guest at most of these events and enjoy the festivities. It’s a great way to see people you have a lot in common with and may not have seen in many years.

As a full-fledged Pullmanite, I have hosted events in four out of the last five months and have met some of the nicest, most considerate people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. There are people who have never moved from Pullman, people who have never before lived in Pullman, people who have lived in Pullman and moved out but keep coming back for friends and events, and there are people who lived in Pullman decades ago but have returned. If you still can’t find a reason to come to Pullman in all that I’ve mentioned, consider this — Wal-Mart will be opening soon at 111th & Doty next to US Bank!

IN MEMORIAM

Lyle J. Spagnola of Homewood, formerly of Roseland; son of the late Maria (nee Slaviero) and John Spagnola … Alexander “Gene” Guidici, 88; of Tinley Park, formerly of South Holland and Roseland; husband for 65 years of Marie (nee D’Onofrio) … John “Richard” Gaspari, 78; of Merrillville, formerly of Midlothian and Roseland; husband for 52 years of Rina (nee Panozzo).

Contact me at CJ Martello, 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; cjfranoi@yahoo.com; leave message at 773-701-6756.

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.