WASHINGTON – Pullman National Monument will officially open its visitor center doors and state historic site grounds on Labor Day weekend, September 4 and 5, 2021, thanks in part to the support of the National Park Foundation and its donors. The celebratory weekend will feature tours, interpretive programming, and a host of events and activities organized by a variety of partners throughout the Pullman neighborhood.
“As we celebrate the opening of Pullman National Monument, we also celebrate the power of working together,” said National Park Foundation President and CEO Will Shafroth. “When Pullman National Monument was designated in 2015, the core feature of the site, the historic Clock Tower, and the surrounding grounds required significant restoration. The National Park Foundation, generous donors including a lead gift from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, committed partners, and Pullman community members stepped up to provide critical investment and expertise to the project. The result is that we are together preserving and sharing Pullman’s unique history for generations to come.”
Funded by the National Park Foundation and its donors and combined with NPS Centennial Challenge and Recreation Fee funds, the visitor center will be located at the Historic Administration Clock Tower Building. It will feature exhibits and programs that share two 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.
“The Pullman National Monument is a community anchor that beautifully honors Pullman’s rich history and serves as an attraction for Chicagoans and people across the nation," said Pritzker Traubert Foundation Trustee Bryan Traubert. “The Pritzker Traubert Foundation is proud to invest in infrastructure that supports economic and cultural vitality on the South Side, and is excited to help celebrate the official opening of Pullman National Monument.”
In partnership with the National Park Service, National Park Foundation, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources transformed the state-managed 12-acre grounds that are adjacent to the Historic Administration Clock Tower Building and are collectively known as the Pullman State Historic Site. This transformation included restoration of the landscape and ADA accessible improvements.
“The support of the National Park Foundation and its generous donors was critical to the renovation of the Clock Tower Building that is home to the new visitor center and that stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of the many partners who worked for decades to preserve and share this special place in Chicago and American history,” said Pullman National Monument Superintendent Teri Gage.
To date, the National Park Foundation has provided more than $10 million to support Pullman National Monument, thanks to many generous donors, including a lead gift from former National Park Foundation Board Director Bryan Traubert of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. Major support also came from the Union Pacific Foundation; Fund II Foundation; former National Park Foundation Board Director Brien O’Brien and Mary Hasten; Chapman Hanson Foundation; Chicago Department of Planning and Development; former National Park Foundation Board Director Ellen Alberding and Kelly Welsh; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Robert R. McCormick Foundation; Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust; Walmart; National Park Foundation Board Director Barbara M. Neal; and Ms. Karen Jones Squires and Mr. Jim Squires. The National Park Foundation also provided support for the Historic Pullman Foundation (HPF) in its role as the park’s philanthropic partner, enabling HPF to do strategic planning, expand its mission, attract new volunteers and supporters for Pullman National Monument, and develop a new website.
“Fund II Foundation is honored to contribute to the preservation and elevation of the African-American experience at Pullman National Monument,” said Fund II Foundation Founding Director Robert F. Smith. “The story of Pullman Porters and the community they built in Chicago and shared on the rails is the story of progress. Pullman Porters helped shape our American history, giving rise to the labor movement and it is important to honor them now and share their stories with current and future generations. I personally am moved by this story; my father and grandfather, both named William Smith; served on the railroad as waiter and porter. So, this is especially sweet.”
Beyond financial support, the National Park Foundation also collaborated with Union Pacific to create a vintage-style poster celebrating Pullman National Monument, designed by local Chicago artist Joe Nelson. You can learn more about the poster design and the artist’s inspiration on the National Park Foundation’s blog.
“The Pullman National Monument is a tribute to African-American Pullman porters who created the first African American union, and the legacy of George Pullman– providing a quality passenger rail car, and the nation’s first planned community,” said Union Pacific Senior Vice President – Corporate Relations, Chief Administrative Officer and Foundation President Scott Moore. “This poster is a nod to the days gone by as we celebrate a time when Union Pacific trains carried people to destinations they couldn’t explore any other way, and the role Pullman and his porters played in rail history. While our trains no longer carry passengers, we encourage this generation of explorers to visit national parks and experience the wonder and history.”
The National Park Foundation plays a critical role in helping the National Park Service expand people’s understanding of and direct access to American history. As such, in addition to Pullman National Monument, the National Park Foundation has also helped preserve places including Camp Nelson National Monument, César E. Chávez National Monument, Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Freedom Riders National Monument, Stonewall National Monument, and the homes where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born and where he and Coretta Scott King raised their family.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation works to protect wildlife and park lands, preserve history and culture, educate and engage youth, and connect people everywhere to the wonder of parks. We do it in collaboration with the National Park Service, the park partner community, and with the generous support of donors, without whom our work would not be possible. Learn more at nationalparks.org.