OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Liberace would have loved Chicago's Pullman Christmas homes

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2012-12-06T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Liberace would have loved Chicago's Pullman Christmas homesBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, 219.852.4327 nwitimes.com

The late legendary Las Vegas showman Liberace, an audience favorite of the Star Plaza Theatre stage in Merrillville, loved Christmas.

Each year, he spent a fortune decorating.

In 1977, for example, his accountant Lucille Cunningham said he spent more than $25,000 just on holiday decorations for his homes. His Palm Springs compound, The Cloisters, being his favorite retreat, it alone, traditionally showcasd 18 different decorated Christmas trees, more than 350 live poinsettias, greenery, wreaths, and according to Cunningham, "enough candles, twinkling lights and tinsel to stock a department store."

Liberace, who died at age 67 in 1987, would have loved the historic Chicago Pullman neighborhood annual home tours.

Reader Judith Kubida tipped me off this week to remind readers about the Historic Pullman Foundation hosting its 17th Annual Candlelight House Walk and Holiday Buffet from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

This event is a festive holiday tour to provide visitors a special look inside five historic Pullman row houses bedecked for the holidays.

"This smaller, more intimate tour than the annual October house tour, provides a personal look into these restored historic homes during this special time of year," said Candlelight chair Cynthia Martin-McMahon.

Built in the 1880s, these landmark homes are a unique part of Chicago's history.

The Pullman Historic District contains nearly 1,000 of the original residential structures of the town, and many significant public buildings, all designed by the then 26-year-old Solon S. Beman between 1880 and 1893.

The Pullman Historic District, which has had a city, state and national historic landmark status since 1972, is an ideal example of an industrial planned community. Today, enthusiastic residents of this vibrant area are involved with the preservation of the district and its heritage.

This year's self-guided holiday tour begins at the Historic Pullman Foundation Visitor Center, 11141 South Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago, where visitors can view exhibits on the Town of Pullman, as well as a 20-minute introductory video that's shown every half hour.

In addition, a Wassail punch bowl and holiday buffet will be available throughout the evening, including an array of holiday sweets. Musical entertainment will be provided by the Pullman Community Choir.

The Pullman Community was built by rail car magnate George M. Pullman as a planned community of homes, shops, schools, recreational facilities and industry in the form of his Pullman Palace Car Company, which became famous for its elegant sleeping cars.

The neighborhood was designed and built for workers to escape the dangers of the city's industrial workplace, with Pullman providing a clean, safe and aesthetically pleasing environment for his workers to live and work.

In return, Pullman found he could recruit the best craftsmen from around the world to live in what was billed as "The World's Most Perfect Town."

Today, Pullman is a diverse neighborhood on Chicago's far south side, with a community that is focused on the area's preservation.

Pullman is located four blocks west of I-94 (Calumet/Bishop Ford Expressway) at exit 66A (111th Street). The Visitor Center is located at the corner of 112th street and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Pullman is also accessible by the Metra Electric commuter rail line at the 111th Street/Pullman or the 115th Street/Kensington stations, and the CTA bus line #111/Pullman.

Tickets for the holiday event are $40 per person and include the tour, dinner and desserts. Reservations are required. All proceeds from ticket sales benefit restoration projects in Pullman. For more information, call (773) 785-8901 or visit pullmanil.org.

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