Press Release Feb 21, 2024

New Cultural Trail Proposal Will Connect More People to the Pullman Story, Its Imprint on American History

"The Pullman Cultural Trail offers opportunities to mix art and history in innovative ways that bring Pullman stories to life. This place continues to inspire all and NPCA is committed to seeing this vision through with our many community partners.”

Chicago, IL – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and site design group ltd., in collaboration with community leaders and partners, shared their collective vision for a new Pullman Cultural Trail that once realized, will help connect more stories and places within Pullman National Historical Park. To build on the tremendous growth and opportunities connected to Pullman, which this month celebrates its ninth anniversary, the cultural trail concepts aim to improve access and reach more people with untold stories connected to Pullman’s significant history and lived experiences. The Pullman Cultural Trail idea came from Positioning Pullman and Positioning Pullman 2.0, a community driven plan that continues to serve as a blueprint for development and growth at Pullman and surrounding areas.

“The evolution of Chicago’s first urban national park continues to be seen and felt in the historic neighborhood and beyond, serving as a national model for successfully standing up new parks within living communities,” said Mark Mesle, Midwest Field Representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. “The Pullman Cultural Trail offers opportunities to mix art and history in innovative ways that bring Pullman stories to life. This place continues to inspire all, and NPCA is committed to seeing this vision through with our many community partners.”

The original Positioning Pullman workshops were utilized to discuss the community’s shared vision for the park and its extended historic neighborhood. As a result, more than $100 million has been committed to or invested within Pullman over the last nine years, including improvements to public transit and street safety, new housing, and the renovation and opening of Pullman National Historical Park’s visitor center and grounds.

There are now new and innovative opportunities for community-led investments through the Pullman Cultural Trail proposal. NPCA and site design group ltd. hosted a public workshop specifically to hear from the community and discuss the recommendations for including underrepresented stories and sites along the trail. This includes connecting existing green spaces, historic landmarks and connecting pathways to more simply and fully navigate the national park grounds.

“Nine years ago, when we originally envisioned a wayfinding tool to guide people through the Pullman community, we never thought that the restoration of the national park would ignite a movement of economic development and revitalization in this historic area,” said Ernest Wong, Principal at site design group ltd. "As visitors come from all over the world to experience this important part of American history, the impact of tourism continues to reverberate throughout the neighborhoods. The growing pride within the community further underscores the value of placemaking. The Cultural Trail stands not only as an homage to the past but as a gift for the future. Uncovering Pullman’s rich heritage serves as a guiding light, sparking a resurgence in redevelopment.”

Site design group ltd., which designed the Pullman visitor center grounds, helped translate these community driven concepts into creative, practical and visually appealing examples for consideration at numerous points within the national park boundary. The top recommendations include:

  • Interpretive outdoor exhibits and expanded signage throughout the national park grounds.

  • Digital interpretation that utilizes QR codes to help tell the stories of Pullman families, businesses and community leaders.

  • Art murals and colorful crosswalks to better connect the walkability of the neighborhood.

  • Outdoor plazas and maps in pavement where visitors can walk in the footprints of history, tracing a Pullman factory worker’s day more than 100 years ago and bringing to life the people and places that shaped American history here.

  • Art sculptures to revitalize parking lots, promote community gatherings and connect more outdoor green space.

The National Park Service and Illinois Department of Natural Resources recently released a joint management plan for Pullman that will guide decision making for the co-located sites. Within it, a cultural trail is included as part of the park’s long-term vision for visitors to “experience history” at the park. The Pullman Cultural Trail proposal is a guide for community members, organizations and governmental entities to continue this important work together and make these concepts a reality.

“Pullman Cultural Trail will give residents and visitors the opportunity to see stories come to life,” said Tracy Murray, Founder of the Historic Pullman Empowerment Organization. “This trail will connect us to our history, heritage, current stories, and allow engagement with the community. Chicagoans and others can enjoy walking the trail and learning about an amazing, preserved community. We are Pullman Strong!" 

The Pullman Cultural Trail proposal is the product of many diverse voices that remain committed to preserving Pullman’s history and securing its future. To see the full report, please visit here.


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

About site design group ltd.: Founded in 1990, site design group ltd. (site) is an award-winning landscape architecture and urban design firm. They are known for their leadership and innovation in the public realm, commitment to design excellence, and community-based approach. Each project brings a measure of social responsibility, placemaking, and land stewardship. Learn more at