Energy and Natural Resources Committee Passes Durbin, Kirk Bill To Study New Philadelphia As National Park

An active archaeological site, New Philadelphia played a significant role in America?s history

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] –U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) announced today that the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a bill that takes the first step toward a National Park designation for New Philadelphia, Illinois – the first town in America founded and built by a freed slave before the Civil War. The bill calls for a study of whether a National Park designation is merited.  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.

“I applaud Chairwoman Landrieu and the rest of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee for passing this bill. New Philadelphia has exceptional national historical significance. The site serves as a looking glass back into a pre-Civil War era society where a unique nineteenth-century multi-racial community lived,” Durbin said. “This bill provides a necessary step in efforts to elevate New Philadelphia to a unit of the National Park System, ensuring protection for the opportunity to study the site without interference.”

"Today we are one step closer to preserving an important part of our state's diverse heritage and boosting tourism in western Illinois," Senator Kirk said. "New Philadelphia was the nation's first town founded by an African-American, and making it a part of the National Parks Service would honor the legacy of its founder, Frank McWorter, and strengthen the economy in the community he built."

The New Philadelphia, Illinois Study Act (S. 1328) – introduced by Durbin and Kirk in July 2013– would direct the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a special resource study of the New Philadelphia archaeological site and the land surrounding it in Illinois. Agricultural activities in the area have put the 19th century architectural foundations at New Philadelphia at risk of damage. Designation as a National Park would protect New Philadelphia so further studies can take place. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and passed on April 28th, 2014.