Durbin, Kirk, Kelly Introduce Bill to Establish National Park in Pullman

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representative Robin Kelly (D-IL-02) today announced that they will introduce legislation next week 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.


“There is much to preserve and celebrate in Chicago's unique Pullman neighborhood, from its important role in the history of labor and civil rights in our country to its position as America's first planned industrial town” Durbin said.  “By elevating Pullman to National Park status our bill 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.  I look forward to working with Pullman residents to tell this community's remarkable story.”


"This legislation will ensure that over a hundred years of civil rights and industrial history will be preserved within the Pullman neighborhood,” Kirk said. "According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the Pullman National Historic Park could bring 300,000 visitors each year and create 356 new jobs, providing $40 million annually to our community. Illinois will benefit greatly from the establishment of this park."


“This bill is for future generations of Americans who will one day visit Pullman and learn about the vital role it played in our nation's labor history and civil rights history,” Kelly said. “Pullman has an inspiring story to tell. It's the story of a great industrialist and hard-working laborers who together built a product that revolutionized railroad travel and helped to develop a strong working class. As we move forward into the Digital Age, it would be fitting for Congress to honor America’s Industrial Age by creating a Pullman National Park.”


The Members' bill will provide for greater coordination of preservation and protection efforts by federal, state and local agencies by creating a national park within the boundaries of the current Pullman Historical District, which is 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, 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.


Earlier this year, 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.