The National Park Service (NPS) and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) invite the public to celebrate the Grand Opening of Pullman National Monument Visitor Center and State Historic Site grounds on Labor Day weekend, September 4 and 5, 2021. The weekend will feature tours of the visitor center and historic Hotel Florence, interpretive programming, and a host of events and activities organized by partners throughout the Pullman Historic District.
“We are thrilled to celebrate with our partners and visitors the grand opening of the visitor center, which was restored and renovated in part through the generosity of the National Park Foundation and its donors,” said Pullman National Monument Superintendent Teri Gage. “As a partnership park, Pullman National Monument benefits from the thriving urban community we call home, including the many partners whose efforts over decades have made it possible to preserve and share this special place in Chicago and American history.”
There are many events throughout the celebration weekend including the following:
- Free tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis during the event for timed, guided tours of the Pullman National Monument Visitor Center and Hotel Florence;
- National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum will host a compelling look at the struggles experienced by the Pullman Porters and their ultimate victory in establishing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black union to be chartered under the American Federation of Labor, through exhibits and programming at the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum (including the Urban Renaissance festival on Monday, September 6);
- Pullman Civic Organization, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward), Calumet Area Industrial Commission, and Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce has organized a Saturday morning car caravan and afternoon block party with the Jesse White Tumblers;
- a display and ticketed tours of historic Pullman-built rail cars hosted by Historic Pullman Foundation and sponsored by Amtrak, the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners, and Metra;
- the Illinois Labor History Society will offer tours and interpretive programming;
- Chicago Federation of Labor and HIRE 360 representatives will be available to provide information on applying for building trade apprenticeships;
- the Historic Pullman Foundation will unveil a commemorative Mitch Markovitz poster they commissioned.
The event schedule and updates are available on Pullman National Monument’s website. Additional event partners include Bielenberg Historic Pullman House Foundation, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Eugene V. Debs Foundation, Friends of Big Marsh, Gately Park, Greenstone United Methodist Church, House of Hope, Illinois Railway Museum, Mother Jones Heritage Project, National Park Foundation, National Parks Conservation Association, and Pullman National Monument Preservation Society.
The new Pullman National Monument Visitor Center will be located at the Historic Administration Clock Tower Building, 11001 S. Cottage Grove Ave., and managed by NPS. Funded by the National Park Foundation and its donors and combined with an NPS Centennial Challenge Grant, the Visitor Center will feature exhibits and programs that share key moments in American Labor History associated with the Pullman company including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott, and the 1937 African-American Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters union winning the first successful contract with a major company. Visitors can get a glimpse of almost a century of evolving workforce and rail equipment production, learn about the lasting design and architecture of the 1880 Town of Pullman, and how a community works together to preserve an historic district.
After standing for almost 117 years as a Pullman landmark, the Administration Building was seriously damaged by fire in December 1998. The State of Illinois reconstructed the building in 2005 and in 2015 transferred the building to the NPS to serve as the anchor for the newly designated Pullman National Monument. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) owns and operates the adjacent 12-acre grounds, including the Front Erecting Shop North Wing, Front Erecting Shop South Wing Ruins, Front Erecting Shop, and the Hotel Florence – collectively known as the Pullman State Historic Site.
“The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is anxiously anticipating welcoming visitors onto the site and showcasing the multi-million-dollar investment made to transform the grounds into an inviting landscape allowing us to engage with the public about the remarkable and multi-faceted history associated with the Pullman State Historic Site,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan.
In partnership with the NPS, National Park Foundation, and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the IDNR has recently transformed the state-managed grounds. Soils contaminated over the long, varied history of industrial use of the site have been remediated, and the open spaces have been improved. All improvements are ADA accessible and connected by the former Transfer Pit – once used to move under-construction train cars – which is now a linear plaza that again connects the site. Other improvements include an entry plaza at South Cottage Grove Avenue and East 111th Street, a sweeping lawn at the former Lake Vista which allows views of the Administration Building, remains of a historic landscape foundation, new connecting walkways, a gathering space at the historic Front Erecting Shop South Wing Ruins for events, a reconstruction of the famous Worker’s Gate, traditional park open space, and an arrival plaza connected to a new visitor parking lot near the Administration Building.