Pullman National Monument, which is set to become Chicago’s first National Park Service site later today, already has nearly $8 million in support thanks to gifts received by the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service.
The gifts will help jumpstart critical projects at the new park including the establishment of a visitor center, educational and experiential exhibits, and programming in the Administrative Clock Tower Building designed to engage schoolchildren, the community, and visitors about the importance of Pullman to America’s collective history. A generous lead gift was provided by National Park Foundation director Bryan Traubert of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. Major support also came from National Park Foundation director and Chicagoan Brien O’Brien and Mary Hasten; Union Pacific Foundation; National Park Foundation director Ellen Alberding and Kelly Welsh; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and David Hiller Charitable Fund.
“This funding is a testament to the strong support from the Chicago community to tell the story of Pullman through the national parks,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Public-private partnerships help our national parks achieve the margin of excellence, and I commend the philanthropists for their generosity that will help Pullman get off to a strong start.”
“This will be a monument, not to buildings but to Pullman’s role in building the American Dream and I want to thank everyone who has stepped up to make sure it has the resources it deserves,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “This new national monument is another step forward in Pullman’s comeback story. From now on, Pullman belongs not just to Chicago but to all of America and I am proud of everyone who made this day possible.”
These gifts advance President Obama’s Centennial Initiative for the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, a multi-year effort to invest in the park system’s most important assets, engage volunteers and the next generation, and leverage public-private partnerships to enhance the national park experience for millions of visitors from around the world.
“These generous donors are helping us establish the first national park in Chicago and tell the important American stories that have unfolded in the Pullman neighborhood and related to the Pullman Company,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “With the support they have pledged, we can move ahead with our vision of a park that shares important civil rights, industrial development and labor relations stories with visitors from around the world.”
Built in the 1880s as an industrial town for the Pullman Company, the historic district highlights both the promise of American opportunity and the struggles for civil rights and fair labor standards. This is the neighborhood George Pullman created to provide his employees a good life, and where those employees turned out luxury railway cars that transformed travel in the United States. This is also the neighborhood where those employees organized a strike because Pullman refused to lower rents when he lowered wages in 1894. With the support of the newly formed American Railway Union, this strike shut down rail travel west of Detroit, affecting some 250,000 workers in 27 states. President Grover Cleveland, invoking the Sherman Antitrust Act for the first time against labor, called in federal troops, leading to clashes and casualties. And in the midst of this battle, as a gesture toward labor, Congress enacted legislation to make Labor Day a federal holiday.
The Pullman historic district also provides wonderful context for telling the story of the African-American porters and maids Pullman hired soon after their emancipation from slavery to provide service in his luxury rail cars. Their experience laid the foundation in significant measure for the rise of the African-American middle class. And their union organization into the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters resulted in the first collective bargaining agreement between an African-American union and a major company, a key milestone in the civil rights movement.
“The support for Pullman National Monument is an inspiring example of how public-private partnerships support America’s most treasured and important places at the times and in the ways they need it most,” said Dan Wenk, president of the National Park Foundation. “We are grateful to everyone who is making this park a reality, and we look forward to working with more philanthropists and organizations on transformative gifts to further bolster national parks across the country.”
From its inception, the National Park System has benefited from private support. Many of the earliest national parks were the direct beneficiaries of the transcontinental railroad companies and generous philanthropists have always stepped forward to keep the national parks beautiful, vital, and accessible.
In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, the National Park Foundation is also spearheading a two-year public engagement and education campaign launching this spring titled “Find Your Park.” The initiative will highlight the National Park Service’s important work, inviting people everywhere to connect with their parks and inspiring the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates. In addition, as part of its commitment to the National Park Service Centennial, the Foundation is embarking on a national fundraising campaign dedicated to raising private support for America’s national parks.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service. Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation raises private funds to help PROTECT more than 84 million acres of national parks through critical conservation and preservation efforts, CONNECT all Americans with their incomparable natural landscapes, vibrant culture and rich history, and INSPIRE the next generation of park stewards. Find out more and become a part of the national park community at www.nationalparks.org