As of Thursday, February 19, 2015, I have been living within the boundaries of the Pullman National Monument! After many years of hard work and progressive effort by numerous residents and supporters, Pullman has become part of the country’s National Park System. As a voting member of the Executive Board of the Pullman Civic Organization (PCO) I received a ticket to attend the Presidential signing at the Gwendolyn Brooks Academy, (formerly Mendel and Pullman Tech).
I did all the right planning to get myself a center seat in the sixth row, directly in front of the dais with all the dignitaries. Due to the ceremony being a once-in-a-lifetime event I took quite a few photos. I thought there would be many, many photos taken and posted but didn’t realize that there were very few attendees in a seat with such a perfect view. Afterwards I posted an album of 30 photos on Facebook and had a hard cover photo album made for anyone that might care to review the event.
That Thursday was very special in Pullman with volunteers starting to work at the Historic Pullman Foundation’s (HPF) Visitor’s Center bright and early at 7:00 am. Two large tents had been constructed and heaters were put in place to allow for the expected celebrants and dignitaries. That day was one of the coldest of this memorable winter but it didn’t hold anyone back. Due to the size of the expected crowd, seating was only allowed along the walls of the visitor’s center while tall tables were arranged throughout the open space.
At Brooks Academy, it was interesting to see all the politicians in attendance and the dignitaries too. Governor Rauner walked in and everyone kept an eye on him — that was about the only reaction he got, other than not being invited on to the dais. As a former state employee, that was fine with me — I retired as of May first. President Obama was also cool towards Rauner and only looked to him when mentioning unions.
One of the best parts of the actual signing event was that so many Pullmanites got to take part in the signing by sitting on the dais behind the President. Although Pullman was well represented, our thoughts went to those who had done so much to preserve Pullman throughout the years and those who had, in more recent times, worked so diligently and persistently in delivering Pullman to this honored place as one of our country’s National Parks.
After the signing ceremony I decided to walk back to Pullman — quickly. I enjoyed a walk past the Pullman Administration Building on 111th and Cottage Grove on which Park Rangers had already posted new signage naming it the Pullman National Monument. As I crossed 111th Street, I entered the Pullman National Monument Park Boundaries and walked past the Hotel Florence to the temporary Park headquarters which the HPF is sharing space with.
Due to the fact that the HPF had the resources and the willingness to share space within the Park, the National Park Rangers were able to set up a working office immediately. It was an uplifting feeling to see Park Rangers in uniform going about their various duties in the area. One of the other organizations that did a great deal to attain the goal of National Park status is the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI). Numerous members of their staff could be seen throughout the day coordinating the events associated with the signing. The CNI staff and leadership deserve a big round of applause for the diligence and abilities in staging the event and their ongoing efforts toward reinforcing Pullman’s presence.
There was a constant flow of people throughout the day and the celebration was a mix of old and new residents, former residents and neighbors. Everyone was in such a state of happiness and euphoria that it was hard not to walk around with a smile on one’s face. Of course, being neighborly required a number of us to appear at Argus Brewery on Front Street in response to an invitation from the Argus staff. The Argus Brewery is a big part of Pullman’s current history and is a welcome addition as an attraction that brings more visitors to Pullman. The Argus Brewery created a special craft beer for the occasion, the Monumental Lager.
Many discussions arose as to just what the Pullman National Monument consists of which necessitated a bit of research to come up the definitive answer. The Federal Government via the National Park Service is now the owner of the Pullman Administration Clock Tower Building, now and forever known as the Pullman National Monument. However, if you have a national monument — it is part of a national park which gives us the boundaries of the park. The Pullman National Monument Park boundaries are 103rd Street to 115th Street and Cottage Grove on the West to the Norfolk and Western Rail Line on the East which are just beyond Langley Ave.
The effect of the National Park on the neighborhood won’t be noticeable except in the positive visual changes at the Pullman National Monument itself, and the Historic Pullman Foundation Ranger’s Offices. I must admit, it was pretty interesting when I recently walked into the Pullman National Monument’s offices and was immediately greeted by a Ranger. Nothing inside has really changed except for the fact that there were more visitors than usual and they were all excited to be experiencing Pullman for the first time.
The number crunchers have said that Pullman would experience 300,000 visitors a year within ten years; it appears we’re off to a great start and may hit that number in less than ten years. Within the next few years there will be many changes within the Pullman National Monument boundaries including hotels and restaurants and other businesses related to large numbers of tourists and visitors coming to the park.
If you haven’t made the time to drive through Pullman, this would be a good time to come through and see the Pullman National Monument and National Park in its beginning stages. If you were to visit once a year for the next few years, you would definitely see a beauty and restoration of Pullman that would have been hard to imagine except for those visionaries who worked so hard over the years to achieve such a lofty goal for our benefit.
To contact me, write to 11403 S. St. Lawrence Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60628; 773-701-6756; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Roseland Roundtable on Facebook.