Secretary Jewell Applauds President Obama's Action to Establish Pullman National Monument

Chicago's First National Park Honors Labor, Civil Rights Movements

2/19/2015
Last edited 9/29/2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama's action today to establish the Pullman National Monument in Chicago, Illinois. The monument will protect and interpret America's first planned industrial town and a site associated with important milestones in the labor and civil rights movements.

The Pullman National Monument is one of three new national monuments announced by President Obama today that help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans. He also launched an “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year. Find out more here.

“National parks are America's story teller, so it's fitting that we are including Pullman and the neighborhood's rich history in the national park system,” said Secretary Jewell. “Chicago's first national park will help preserve and honor the stories associated with this unique factory town and the Pullman Company – from the industrial revolution to the struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity.”

The Pullman National Monument is located in Chicago's South Side on the original Pullman town site. The town was created in the 1880s by the Pullman Palace Car Company to serve as a model factory town to manufacture railroad passenger cars and house factory workers and their families.

“As the National Park Service's newest urban park, the Pullman National Monument will allow Chicagoans and visitors from around the world to discover the diverse experiences offered in national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We look forward to working with the community to share the important stories that unfolded here, including the growth of American industry, civil rights and labor relations.”

Within the monument's 200-acre boundary, the National Park Service currently owns the iconic Administration Clock Tower Building, donated to the nation by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. This building will contain a visitor center, offering exhibits and programs designed to engage schoolchildren, the community and visitors about the importance of Pullman to American history.

The National Park Service will work closely with State agencies, the City of Chicago, community residents, neighborhood organizations and other groups that have worked hard over the years to preserve the site. The National Park Service will conduct a management planning process with full public involvement.

Additionally, the National Park Foundation today announced that they have raised nearly $8 million from individual donors and organizations to support the development of the new visitor center and programs at Pullman National Monument.

George Mortimer Pullman founded the Pullman Palace Car Company in 1867, and its factories employed thousands of workers to construct the lavish railroad cars, which transformed the experience of passenger railroad travel.

The town of Pullman was a completely planned model community, representing a departure from the over-crowded and unsanitary living conditions found in working-class districts in other 19th century industrial cities and towns. All the town's facilities and structures—industrial, cultural, religious, recreational, and residential—were coordinated to provide ideal conditions for the workingmen. Most of these historic features remain intact today.

While the Pullman Company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture the cars, George Pullman recruited the first porters, waiters and maids from the population of former house slaves to serve on the sleeping cars. These service jobs, while lower-paying, held prestige in the African American community and played a major role in the rise of the African American middle class and the development of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century.

In 1893, the worst economic depression in American history prior to the Great Depression hit the country. Orders at the Pullman Company declined. The Pullman Company lowered its workers' wages but not the rent it charged those workers for company housing. This angered workers and sparked the Pullman strike of 1894. American Railway Union members nationwide boycotted Pullman cars, paralyzing most of the railroads west of Detroit and threatening the national economy. Invoking the Sherman Antitrust Act for the first time against a union, President Grover Cleveland intervened with Federal troops, and the strike ended violently by mid-July 1894.

Before the Pullman strike ended, Congress passed legislation designating Labor Day a Federal holiday in an effort to placate workers throughout the country.

The Pullman Company was the focus of another nationally significant labor development, when, in 1937, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an influential African-American union founded by A. Philip Randolph, successfully negotiated a labor contract for the porters from the company. The agreement served as a model for other African American workers and significantly contributed to the rise of the civil rights movement in the United States.

The area was first recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. In 2013, the National Park Service completed a reconnaissance survey of the Pullman Historic District that affirmed the site's national significance.

The designation is strongly supported by congressional, state and local leaders, community groups and historical organizations as a way to promote historic preservation and generate economic activity.

An independent report from the National Park Conservation Association estimates that the national monument designation could bring more than 300,000 visitors a year, create 350 jobs and generate $40 million in local economic activity.

The Pullman National Monument is bounded by East 115th and East 103rd Streets, and South Cottage Grove Avenue and the Norfolk and Western railroad tracks. Though some of the larger buildings have been demolished, many of the historically significant public buildings, public spaces, and worker housing remain, including the Administration Clock Tower Building, the Factory Complex, Hotel Florence, Greenstone Church, the Pullman Fire Station, Market Hall, Pullman Wheelworks, the stables, Arcade Park and Pullman Park.

More information about the new monument is available at http://www.nps.gov/pull.

The Antiquities Act was first exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients.

With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 16 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.

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