Pull historic district

Looking West down 112th Street ( Arcade Row) at the corner of St. Lawrence as visiting folks from Bensonville and Elmhurst Park District's taking part in the Pullman House Tour in 2009. (Warren Skalski / Chicago Tribune / October 12, 2009)

A federal study has determined the Pullman Historic District on the Far South Side is worthy of being considered as a national park, officials announced today.

Pullman residents, local and national historic groups, along with Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), having been working to have the area designated a national park. The historic district has been a national landmark since 1970.

On Monday, the National Park Service sent the senators and Kelly a report concluding the district has a unique historical significance that makes it an appropriate candidate for a park.

"Pullman represents a special chapter in the American experience.  It is the birthplace of the black labor movement,” Kelly said in a statement.  “Also, it uniquely weaves together many stories that shaped our country -- the railroads, industrial age, union movement and Chicago’s emergence as a transportation and commercial hub. I’m thrilled that the National Park Service thinks Pullman has historical significance and conveys a story worth preserving."

Pullman was developed by rail car builder George Pullman and opened as the country's first company town in 1881.

George Pullman reaped praise for the town’s founding, but its reputation suffered following an industry-wide strike among rail car builders. In later years, it was considered the birthplace of the first black union in the country, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

For the park to become a reality, Congress must authorize an economic feasibility study to determine how it could be funded and maintained.

“The National Parks are looking to create more parks in urban areas, but it is expected that local financial support will be needed to make the Pullman Park a reality,” the park service said.

Lynn McClure, Midwest regional director of the National Parks Conservation Association, said it will now figure out what’s next.

“It will be interesting to hear what the next steps are, because that’s what we will be working on,” McClure said.

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