The Pullman Factory Administration Building is to house a future Visitors Center for the national monument. (Photo: Mark Cassello)
Did you know the Pullman National Monument is located only about 15 minutes away from Calumet College of St. Joseph (CCSJ)?
Professor Mark Cassello will host “The Fight to Protect the Pullman National Monument” at 10:15 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2, in Room 200. Long-time residents of Pullman will discuss challenges to preserving the community’s historic and cultural resources.
President Barack Obama established the Pullman National Monument in 2015. He declared that “[t]he remaining structures of the Pullman Palace Car Company, workers’ housing, and community buildings that make up the Pullman Historic District are an evocative testament to the evolution of American industry, the rise of unions and the labor movement, the lasting strength of good urban design, and the remarkable journey of the Pullman porters toward the civil rights movement of the 20th century.”
President Obama used his power under the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 to “preserve the historic resources” of the Town of Pullman (1880-1907). He assigned the National Park Service authority to manage the new monument in partnership with the State of Illinois and local organizations.
But some worry that the National Park Service is not protecting the monument’s historic resources—its historic architecture, archaeological resources, landscape architecture, and original plan—to the degree they should.
Professor Cassello explains that shortly after the monument designation, the National Park Service “greenlighted” a developer’s plan to construct a new apartment building on a sensitive historic site associated with the Pullman Strike of 1894.
This inspired Professor Cassello along with other Pullman residents to form the Pullman National Monument Preservation Society (PNMPS), an organization that advocates for the “preservation and restoration of the model town of Pullman’s historic architecture, landscapes, and urban plan.”
“We’re the underdogs,” explained Cassello. “We fought for three years against a clout-heavy developer to protect this archaeological site and to ensure the size, spatial arrangement, and design of the new building would more closely resemble that of the historic building it is to replace.”
The project proponents disagreed with PNMPS. They asserted the project exceeds “local and state and historic district requirements.”
The National Park Service sided with the developer in a 2018 federal review. Their verdict: the project would have “no adverse effect” on Pullman’s historic resources or the integrity of the District.
If you were to visit the Pullman National Monument today, you’d see a flurry of activity as workers assemble this large, modern apartment building.
“This construction activity,” Cassello laments, “completely destroyed the historic ruin of a unique tenement building and irreparably disturbed an important archaeological site.”
PNMPS continues to argue that federal law requires these kinds of “historic resources” to be preserved “unimpaired for future generations.” They also worry about the precedent this project sets for future development.
In addition to Professor Cassello, other panelists include retired professor of behavioral science Dr. Bernadette Tucker, Chicago historian and preservation advocate Paul Petraitis, and long-time Pullman volunteer Georgia Vroman.
Dr. Tucker is a descendant of a Pullman porter. Her grandfather John Sesley Tucker was a Pullman Porter for over 50 years.
During his tenure at the Chicago Historical Society, Paul Petraitis consulted in defining the boundaries of the Pullman National Historic Landmark District. He also has a degree in History of Photography from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design.
Georgia Vroman is the co-founder of the iconic, annual “Pullman House Tour,” which for over four decades has attracted thousands of visitors to the community each year. The funds raised by the house tour have helped fund the ongoing restoration of the surviving Pullman architecture.
“This event is a chance for everyone to learn about the struggles that go on behind the scenes at American’s national monuments and to learn why the Pullman National Monument is a place worth fighting for,” said Cassello.
For more information about this event, visit the Humanities Festival website or contact Mark Cassello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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