CHICAGO (CBS) — A building in Chicago is the city’s newest cultural attraction.
It’s packed with history of a visionary business leader, the town he built and the famous workers who changed organized labor. CBS 2’s Jim Williams visited the Pullman National Monument Wednesday and got an exclusive look.READ MORE: With 6 Children And Teens Shot And 1 Killed In Chicago Within Hours This Week, Youth Mentor Says Action Is Needed Now
They built the Pullman train cars here. Now the visitor center is opening this weekend Twelve acres of landscaped grounds and a museum expected to create even more economic vitality to the South Side community.
For 33 years, Teri Gage has worked for the National Park Service. This assignment is unlike any job she had before.
“For one thing, it’s in an urban setting,” Gage said.
Indeed it is an urban setting at 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. Gage is Superintendent of The Pullman National Monument.
“I think is just the beginning for something wonderful,” Gage said.
In the newly renovated building is the story of George Pullman’s famous sleeper train cars, built right here long ago.
“Plush carpeting. Beautiful upholstery,” Gage said.
The story of the town he created that bears his name and his workers.READ MORE: Man Shot, Critically Wounded In Hermosa
“You have three very unique elements of American history that run through Pullman.
David Doig is president of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a nonprofit in Pullman.
“You’ve got labor with the Pullman strike is 1894, you’ve got urban planning history with the whole worker town and you’ve got African American history the Pullman porters,” Doing said.
Pullman Porters who would form the first black labor union in the country. In 2015, President Barack Obama declared it a national monument. Now the $35 million Pullman National Visitor Center opens this weekend.
“This is a dream come true,” Doing said. “We’ve been talking about this build and talking about this project for over a decade and to see it actually come to fruition is gratifying.”
Adding to the economic development already in Pullman: Big businesses including the Amazon and Whole Food facilities, 50 historic row houses rehabbed and dozens more scheduled.
“It’s a wonderful day for the 9th Ward,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), “especially for someone who was born and raised in his community as a kid, saw the deterioration. Having this on top of what we’ve already accomplished is really the icing on the cake.”
“More than anything it provides hope. You have a community that was threatened 40, 50 years ago, threatened with demolition and now to see this rebirth is breathtaking,” added Doig.
The doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m. on Sunday. Admission is free. They’ll also have some of the classic Pullman cars this weekend. The hope is eventually to add hotels and more restaurants nearby.MORE NEWS: Man Shot, Wounded On Sidewalk In South Shore