History was made this week on Chicago’s South Side. The Pullman National Monument is now re-designated as Chicago’s first National Historical Park.
The Pullman neighborhood was one of the first planned industrial communities in the nation, as railroad magnate George Pullman built homes right next to his factories. Pullman also played a significant role in the country’s labor and civil rights history. It was the site of the first industry-wide railroad strike and the first Black labor union.
Sen. Dick Durbin and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot were among the special guests who celebrated the recognition on Thursday. “It’s really a great day in our country because this designation as a National Historic Park will redound to the benefit of our entire country to make sure that we continue to tell the foundational and important chapter of the labor movement and other parts of the history of our country that started right here in Pullman,” Lightfoot said.
The historic district includes the site of the former Pullman Palace Car Works shops and administration building, the Hotel Florence (named after George Pullman’s eldest child), Arcade Park. and the Greenstone Church (currently the Greenstone United Methodist Church). Also within the district is the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, named for the prominent leader A. Philip Randolph, which recognizes and explores African American labor history.
The Pullman site was initially designated a historic monument by former President Barack Obama in Feb. 2015. Former First Lady Michele Obama’s grandfather was a Pullman porter.
Sen. Durbin cosponsored the “Pullman National Historical Park Act” along with Sen. Tammy Duckworth. President Joe Biden signed the legislation in December, changing the location from a national monument to a National Historical Park.
According to the National Park Service, the new act allows the Secretary of the Interior’s office to use additional funds to purchase buildings and land to further develop the historic site.
Pullman is the third National Historic Site in the state of Illinois.