CHICAGO (CBS) — Three members of the state’s congressional delegation are teaming up in a bipartisan effort to establish a national park in the historic Pullman neighborhood.
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly — whose district includes Pullman — and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk have announced proposed legislation to create the Pullman National Historic Park to preserve the site where industrialist George Pullman built the first American industrial town in 1880.
Durbin and Kirk pointed to Pullman as the birthplace of the famous Pullman sleeper cars –luxurious railroad coaches operated on most railroads for more than a century – and home to the first nationwide labor strike, and the first African-American labor union.
The Labor Day holiday even traces its roots to the Pullman neighborhood. President Grover Cleveland designated Labor Day as a federal holiday in 1894 as part of an effort to appease labor unions after the infamous Pullman Strike that shut down much of the nation’s railroad traffic.
Kirk envisioned a Pullman National Park as an economic magnet for the city, saying it could create 300 jobs, and bring in thousands of tourists and millions of dollars to the region.
“Chicago already has a 75 percent occupancy rate for its hotels,” he said. “We could fill some of those hotel rooms by tourist trade here, we should do that.”
Kirk and Durbin plan to introduce legislation to Congress next week to establish the Pullman historic district as a national park.