Press Release Feb 19, 2015

Obama Makes History in Chicago: Designates City's First National Park at Historic Pullman Neighborhood

President Obama designates Chicago's first national park site, Pullman National Monument.

CHICAGO – After more than three years of building strong public support in the community and in Congress by National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and community partners, today President Obama is creating Chicago’s first national park at Pullman. President Obama is expected to officially designate the park at a signing ceremony at a local high school in Chicago.

Immediately following the proclamation signing, Pullman supporters will host a celebratory event where hundreds of community members, national parks supporters, and elected officials are expected to participate.

“Few sites tell the story of American industry, labor, urban planning and African American workers as well as Pullman,” said Clark Bunting, President and CEO of NPCA. “There is no doubt that those who lived and worked at Pullman helped shape our country.  We owe it to them to preserve their story.”

With deep roots in the labor and civil rights movements, Pullman tells the stories of America’s industrial past, the formation of one of the first African American labor unions, and it is home to the country’s first model industrial town. The Pullman Strike of 1894 was instrumental in the creation of our national Labor Day holiday.  In the 1920s, black workers employed by the Pullman Company as porters and maids continued to struggle for worker’s rights.  They created the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, becoming the first African American labor union to secure collective bargaining rights.

“Pullman’s story should be remembered and recounted,” said Lynn McClure, Midwest senior regional director of NPCA. “Today’s designation is a testament to unwavering community spirit, to have the Pullman neighborhood preserved and its wonderful history told for the millions of people that visit our national parks each year.”

For more than three years, NPCA has been leading efforts to create Chicago’s first national park by working with community leaders and partner groups, neighborhood residents, and elected officials in D.C. and Chicago.

When a national park is established in an urban area, the surrounding neighborhood benefits in a number of ways, often providing many city residents with their first national park experience. And early national park experiences make lifelong park visitors and advocates.

National parks are economic engines for local communities, creating jobs at the park and in the neighboring communities. A recent economic report, released by NPCA, the City of Chicago and other partners, found that a national park at Pullman would promote cultural tourism and spending, stimulate new business growth, create jobs and spur the renovation of Pullman’s historic core. By its 10th year of full operation, a national park at Pullman is expected to:

  • attract more than 300,000 visitors each year;
  • create 350 jobs annually;
  • generate $15 million in annual wages; and
  • sustain $40 million in economic activity, mostly due to visitor spending.

As we celebrate the centennial of the creation of the National Park System in 2016, and prepare for the next 100 years, we must continue to work to connect urban populations to our most treasured lands and expand our National Park System to more adequately reflect our shared history and ensure that the parks better represent who we are as a nation. Learn more at www.npca.org/npforpullman.

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About 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 one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.