PULLMAN — Train lovers and local history buffs will flock to Pullman this weekend for the second annual celebration of the newly minted national historical park.
Pullman Railroad Days is 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, featuring numerous events honoring the neighborhood, which was once a model industrial community.
Tickets are $30 for one day, and kids 12 and younger are free with a ticketed adult. To buy tickets and see a full schedule, click here.
Organizers will lead four guided tours of the community, and the first floor of the historical Hotel Florence will be open for visits during the event.
The Historic Pullman Foundation’s 50th anniversary exhibit, exploring the advocacy to preserve and promote the community’s history that ultimately led to the national historical park designation, is also included in the ticket.
Visitors can also participate in activities like tours of three Pullman-made rail cars, live performances of music popular when Pullman was a company town and a vendor fair featuring community groups.
“It’s going to be bigger and better than last year,” said Julian Jackson, executive director of the Historic Pullman Foundation. “We’re really leaning into some of the more family-friendly events this year.”
The Pullman Railroad Days neighborhood tours are a 45-minute “teaser” for the more in-depth tours held every first Sunday of the month by the Historic Pullman Foundation, Jackson said.
Other tours to be held periodically through the weekend explore the factory grounds, tragedies that impacted the community and the 1894 workers’ strike and boycott.
Visitors can enter the Hotel Florence as part of the event and see the 140-year-old building’s renovation-in-progress, which will restore it to “what it would’ve looked like back in its heyday,” Jackson said.
There are “active discussions” around the possibility of reopening the building as a working hotel, he said.
State representatives unanimously passed a bill in March to spend $21 million on the Hotel Florence’s restoration and find an operator to handle its redevelopment and eventual operations. The bill now awaits a potential Senate vote.
This year, the Historic Pullman Foundation will host a Labor Day celebration. Organizers will also host their 50th annual house tour, during which visitors can see inside Pullman’s historical homes.
The house tour also serves as a fundraiser for a microgrant program that helps neighbors restore their homes’ facades “to their original elegance,” Jackson said.
Pullman was upgraded from a national monument to a national historical park in December. The move established Pullman as the one of two such parks in Illinois, alongside Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield home, and grants it increased protections, according to WTTW.
“The neighborhood was slated for demolition [in the mid-20th century], but neighbors came together, protested and got it landmark status,” Jackson said.
“They’ve slowly but surely advocated for its history, collected archives and artifacts, won a series of [landmark] designations, and, in partnership with other organizations, successfully invited the National Park Service to locate there.”
As Pullman completes its second year as a federally recognized site, “we still need a couple amenities to make it a real destination,” Jackson said.
Opening a hotel will be an important step — whether that’s at the Hotel Florence, the Pullman Park development or somewhere else — while the opening of a neighborhood café and planned improvements to 111th Street will help draw more visitors, he said.
Tourism in Pullman is “growing at a modestly fast pace,” Jackson said. “… Pullman, like other great neighborhoods in Chicago, is every bit worth visiting as Downtown.”
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