Pullman National Monument opens, will host grand opening events over weekend

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The rails in Pullman are empty, but the company town was bustling in the late 1800s.

"Men, women and children coming from all corners of the world and all striving for the opportunity to share in the American dream. For over a century, Pullman workers built the train cars that moved America," said Patricia Shymanski, president of the Bielenberg Historic Pullman House Foundation.

Now you can experience history and see the rail cars at the Pullman National Monument. While George Pullman started the company, workers - including African American porters - built it.

"A tradition began with the gracious service of the Pullman porters - the standards and service and later activism - changed America in so many ways and for that we are grateful," said Derrick James, Amtrak.

In 1894 workers went on strike. The history is detailed in an exhibit.

"Two years after that strike was resolved, ended," said Don Villar, Chicago Federation of Labor. "Workers and unions and guilds across Chicago still angry of what happened, they gathered together and formed the Chicago Federation of Labor."

This weekend's grand opening will featured family-friendly events, including a car caravan Saturday morning.

"This car caravan will wind up outside the Pullman exhibit hall where we will host a block party featuring the Junior Jumpers and Jesse White tumblers, as well as music and food trucks," said Rachel Smith Kovarsky, president of the Pullman Civic Organization.

"We want to bring a little more light to the positive things going on for the South Side of Chicago, particularly the energy that is starting here at Pullman National Monument," said David A. Peterson, executive director of the national A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum.

And having a national monument here mean the community and tourists will come.

"We are looking at over 300,000 new visitors a year coming to the neighborhood, creating more than 40 million of annual economic output. So we're looking at things like new restaurants, new gift stores, new hotels," said David Doig, president of the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative.

Free events are planned all weekend, and some guided tours are on a first come, first served basis. You can find more information on the monument's website.
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