CHICAGO | U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk announced Monday the National Park Service has released a study which concludes the Pullman community in Chicago’s South Side has unique historical significance and is worthy of serious consideration as a new National Park, according to a news release.
Kelly, Durbin and Kirk, who released the study, have been working to secure national park status for the architecturally unique neighborhood, which played important roles in America’s railroad, industrial and labor history.
“Pullman represents a special chapter in the American experience. It is the birthplace of the black labor movement,” Kelly said. “Also, it uniquely weaves together many stories that shaped our country — the railroads, industrial age, union movement, and Chicago’s emergence as a transportation and commercial hub. I’m happy that the National Park Service thinks Pullman has historical significance and conveys a story worth preserving.”
“Every dollar invested in national park operations generates $10 locally,” Durbin said. “Elevating Pullman to National Park status will provide preservation and conservation opportunities for the site, increase tourism and facilitate job creation on Chicago's South Side. It will also add an important historical site that truly represents America’s cultural and ethnic diversity to the National Park Service’s register.”
"With today's release of the reconnaissance study, the Pullman Historic District is one step closer to becoming Chicago's first national park." Kirk said. “I am pleased to support the development of this landmark site so that all Americans can learn from its unique place in history.”
Congress must now authorize an economic feasibility study of how to finance, manage and maintain a park, which would likely impact portions of a residential neighborhood. Once the final feasibility study has begun, it will take up to two years to complete, the release states.
The National Parks are looking to create more parks in urban areas, but it is expected that local financial support will be needed to make the Pullman Park a reality. There is strong community support for creating a national park in Pullman. More than 100 different organizations have endorsed the concept, including city, county and state park officials, preservationist groups, labor organizations and tourism advocates.
The Pullman site was originally developed by industrialist George Pullman in 1880 and was the first American industrial town. The Pullman site served as the catalyst for the first industry-wide strike in the United States and played an important role in African American and early Civil Rights history through the legacy of the Pullman Porters as well as the development of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first black union. Today, the area has been designated as a registered National Historic Landmark District, an Illinois State Landmark, and a City of Chicago Landmark District.