Durbin: It's Only Right Pullman Be Preserved And Honored As Part Of Our National Park System
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding news that President Obama will designate a portion of Chicago’s Pullman Historic District as a National Monument, making it a unit of the National Park System. Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL) have been working together to secure national park status for the architecturally unique neighborhood which played important roles in America’s railroad, industrial and labor history.
“The people who are part of the Pullman legacy helped shape our country as we know it today,” Durbin said. “Pullman workers fought for fair labor conditions in the late 19th century, and the Pullman porters helped advance America’s civil rights movement. During the economic depression of the 1890s, the Pullman community was the catalyst for the first industry-wide strike in the United States, which helped lead to the creation of Labor Day as a national day.”
“It is only right that Pullman be preserved and honored as a part of our National Parks System. I commend the President for this decision to showcase the prominence and legacy of Pullman in our nation’s history.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks today on the Senate Floor is available here.
Under the announcement, the Pullman Historical District will become a national monument bounded by 103rd Street to the north, 115th Street to the south, Cottage Grove Avenue to the west, and the Norfolk & Western Rail Line to the east. Initially, the National Park Service (NPS), which administers national parks and monuments, will own the Pullman Factory Complex and the land on which it sits, with the option of acquiring additional property or assets should they be made available. Establishing Pullman as a part of the National Park System will allow for greater coordination of preservation and protection efforts by federal, state and local agencies.
In August, Durbin wrote President Obama urging him to use his authority to designate a portion of Chicago’s Pullman Historic District as a unit of the National Park System. That letter is available here. Earlier last year, Durbin, Kirk and Kelly introduced legislation to create the Pullman National Historical Park in the neighborhood’s historical district, an architecturally unique neighborhood which played important roles in America’s railroad, industrial and labor history.
In 2014, the NPS released a study which found that Pullman was “conclusively nationally significant” as a historical site. More than 100 different organizations have endorsed the creation of a national park in Pullman, including city, county and state parks officials; preservationist groups; labor organizations; and tourism advocates. The creation of the national park site will increase jobs and boost Pullman’s economy as a result of added tourism dollars: in 2012, national park visitors contributed more than $30 billion to local economies and supported more than 250,000 jobs. Studies show that every dollar invested in national park operations generates ten dollars of local economic activity.
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. Labor Day was established as a federal holiday following the 1894 Pullman labor strike. The neighborhood is also a well-preserved example of 19th century urban planning and architecture, especially the work of Solon Spencer Beman. Today, the area has been designated as a registered National Historic Landmark District, an Illinois State Landmark, and a City of Chicago Landmark District.
A copy of Durbin’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available below:
Remarks on Pullman National Historical Monument
Senator Richard J. Durbin
February 11, 2015
A Chicago neighborhood that has played a significant part in our country’s African American and labor history is being recognized next week in an exciting way.
Next Thursday, President Obama will declare the Pullman district on the South Side of Chicago a national monument.
This is the first time a unit of the National Park Service will be established in Chicago.
This designation is the culmination of a collaborative effort by the businesses, residents, and organizations in the Pullman area to restore and preserve this unique community.
The people who are part of the Pullman legacy helped shape our country as we know it today.
The Pullman neighborhood includes almost 90 percent of the original buildings that rail car magnate George Pullman built a century ago for his factory town.
It was the birthplace of the nation’s first black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Pullman workers fought for fair labor conditions in the late 19th century, and the Pullman porters helped advance America’s civil rights movement.
During the economic depression of the 1890s, the Pullman community was the catalyst for the first industry-wide strike in the United States, which helped lead to the creation of Labor Day as a national day.
The Pullman Porters are credited with creating the African American middle class.
I have supported this designation for some time and introduced legislation with Senator Kirk and Representative Robin Kelly to make the site a national historical monument.
Alderman Anthony Beale of Chicago’s 9th Ward has worked hard to garner support for recognition of Pullman.
Many others in Chicago helped advance this proposal. It was truly a grassroots effort.
Eleanor Gorski with the Chicago Department of Planning and Development,
David Doig, President of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives,
Lynn McClure and LeAaron Foley with the National Parks Conservation Association,
And many others worked to draw attention to the historical significance of the Pullman neighborhood.
The Pullman national monument will be an important addition to the current national parks system because it highlights stories from communities that are rarely represented in other national parks.
The park's urban location on Chicago’s South side makes it easily accessible to millions of people by public transportation—again, setting Pullman apart from other national parks.
The National Park Service is associated with natural wonders like geysers and forests. Urban national parks are few and far between.
With this designation, the Pullman neighborhood is joining the ranks of the National Mall and the Statue of Liberty as national parks accessible in an urban area.
The monument also will provide an opportunity for tourism and job creation in the community.
It is only right that Pullman be preserved and honored as a part of our National Parks System. I commend the President for this decision to showcase the prominence and legacy of Pullman in our nation’s history.
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