EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Preserve historic Pullman places, faces

2014-02-09T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Preserve historic Pullman places, facesBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
February 09, 2014 12:00 am  • 

“The stories are in these faces,” I said out loud while walking through the Historic Pullman Foundation Visitors Center. Looking at the historic images of the proud Pullman Porters and mustached Hotel Florence workers and guests, I saw stories waiting to be told.

The more I walked through the visitor center and traveled around the neighborhood row houses with their crimson bricks made from Lake Calumet clay, the more I knew I was only half right.

The stories are not only in the faces, but the places as well.

If you haven’t been on the annual Pullman House Tour in October or Candlelight House Walk in December, you are missing true gems of the Midwest. From the emerald serpentine stones that make up the Greenstone Church to the bright red bricks of the Pullman Factory, this is an extraordinary place that deserves preservation. There is a special feeling when you walk into the Pullman Factory Complex as history resonates around you.

The Pullman area holds a special place in our history. The labor and civil rights movements have roots in Pullman, and unique planned villages like Park Forest looked at Pullman, America’s first planned industrial town, as a model. The industrial and rail history hold a special meaning for many on the Chicago’s south side and southern suburbs.

Pullman means much to a wide gamut of people, and I was fortunate to meet many of these folks during the recent introduction of the Pullman National Historical Park Act by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly.

The Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau is a loud and proud supporter of the Historic Pullman Foundation and the Pullman State Historic Site.

In the last few years, the CVB brought over a dozen travel writers to tour Pullman, and we believe Pullman is a pivotal part of the region’s rail history and it plays a large role in our promotion of the region to rail fans. The Chicago Southland CVB supports Pullman becoming Illinois' second national park.

Tourism means dollars and jobs for our region. A Pullman National Historic Park could annually attract 300,000 visitors, create 356 new jobs and provide $40 million in estimated economic impact according to the National Parks Conservation Association. Tourism to Pullman would generate more economic development in the area and the impact would go far beyond the neighborhood. Visitors would stay in local hotels, use local trails and travel to other parts of the region.

I encourage you to call your congressmen and senators and tell them to preserve a piece of American history by supporting the Pullman National Historical Park Act.

Just as important, go to Pullman and see the artifacts in the Visitors Center. Walk along the maroon row houses on your way to Hotel Florence, and then marvel at what will become of the Pullman Factory Complex. Discover the faces and places that tell the experience of Pullman.

Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinions are the writer's.

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