19 August 2013

A nod to Labor for this upcoming holiday

Rows of worker housing in the Standard-Pullman Company Town
A neighborhood comprising approximately 150 homes is located in Hammond's northeast side near the old industrial area that made the city an important steel and manufacturing hub for both rail and ship freight alike.  The neighborhood is one of only a very few "company towns" constructed in Indiana and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.  Known as the Pullman-Standard Historic District, the community radiates out from a center public square on Columbia Avenue.  The Standard Steel Car Corporation was founded in Butler, Pennsylvania in 1902 by John Hansen and “Diamond Jim” Brady with financial backing by Andrew Mellon.  The company became immediately successful as one of the largest steel rail car manufacturers in the United States.  Eyeing Hammond, Indiana as a prime location for production because of shipping ports and steel production, SSC opened a second plant at this location in 1906.  Their manufacturing facilities grew to cover over 350 acres, with a workforce of 3,500 men and production of 100 cars a day by 1912.

In 1917, during World War I, the United States Housing Corporation formed to provide housing near industries supporting the war effort.  Standard Steel Car Corporation was one such company and benefited from what became known as “Industrial Housing Project No. 457”. The USHC contracted with architects and planners to establish development designs; Chicago architect J. C. Llewellyn was selected for the Hammond site.  The plan began to be implemented in 1918 with build-out of 131 buildings by 1919.  The design included single-family homes, duplexes, quadplexes, and a large hotel/boarding house in a large central block.
Standard duplex design

In 1919 the Standard Steel Car plant became the scene of a long and violent summer of marches, confrontations, and riots centered around labor issues at the plant. SSC, while recognizing the labor union representing most skilled, native born labor, did not recognize the union representing less skilled and predominantly non-native born laborers. This union was known as the Amalgamated Union. In August of 1919 4,000 rioters manned barricades at the plant’s entrance. A month later a thousand men gathered at Columbia Avenue and Highland Street and began a march toward the SSC plant. The men, gathered behind the American flag, collided with police officers near the end of Highland Street. Four workers were shot and killed and sixty more were injured. The strike ultimately collapsed in October and the Amalgamated Union ceased to function.

Standard quadplex design
The strength of demand remained strong for the Standard Steel Car Corporation.  In 1929 Chicago’s Pullman Corporation purchased SSC. The corporation was Hammond’s largest employer with over 5,000 men just as production came to a halt at the onset of the Great Depression.  The company closed its doors in 1929 and remained closed for nearly 10 years. Little remained in Hammond other than small industry. In 1934 the company became a merger of SSC and Pullman and was renamed Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing.  By about 1938 thousands were returning to work as the war in Europe resuscitated the railroad business, waking the Pullman-Standard plant.  After the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 the plant received an order for 500 freight cars. The company became prosperous again during World War II as manufacturing lines were retooled to produce field guns, 81 mm mortars, shells, and thousands of 28 ton Sherman tanks.  After the war the company “shrugged off” government contracts and returned to railroad car production. During the second half of the twentieth century the company saw expanded production of freight cars in 1966 and production of Amtrak passenger cars during the 1970’s.  1981 saw the last production of railroad cars; the company closed the same year.



 





 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To claim that Hammond only had small industry from 1929-1939 is grossly misleading. Do names like Conkey, Queen Anne Candies, Betz Corporation, Inland Steel, American Steel Foundries, several railroad shops (IHB, Monon, Erie) and roundhouses used for heavy locomotive and railcar repair, etc. sound familiar? Not to mention the Standard Oil refinery and a dozen other Steel companies and General American (GATX) Freight Car manufacturing in East Chicago, Whiting and Gary that all border Hammond. I would argue that Hammond was almost nothing BUT industrial during this era.