Obama’s Pullman: It’s a Monument, Not a Park, And How

At a Glance: Why did Obama create Pullman as a National Monument, and not a National Park?
-The Antiquities Act of 1906 at the President’s disposal to create National Monuments
-Pullman represents a unique and culturally significant architectural installation in American History
-Illinois, his home state, currently has no national monuments OR national parks
-Monument designations provide flexibility for growth and development balanced with historic preservation efforts, versus parks tend to limit development and promote natural conservation
-This will provide a boost in tourism and secondary economic benefits to the district

It has been announced that President Obama will be visiting Chicago next week to officially designate the Pullman Historic District in Chicago, an important part of American labor, civil rights and architectural history, as a National Monument. This has generated much excitement, especially in the architectural design and historic preservation communities in Chicago.

At the same time as this announcement, and in days leading up to it, there has been some discussion about Pullman becoming a National Park versus a National Monument, as significant support from grassroots organizations as well as the National Parks Conservation Association over the past year has lobbied for the area to be designated as a National Park.

So, what are the differences between a National Monument and National Park? And, what effect does the designation as a National Monument potentially have on the Historic Pullman District and the surrounding community?

Monument versus Park: By Definition
National Park: Usually larger in area, a National Park preserves a variety of nationally significant resources, often times due to some outstanding natural feature. These designations often have educational and recreational value to the American public.
National Monument: A national monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource, and is usually smaller than a park and oftentimes is of cultural significance. Monuments are often created as initial preservation efforts, and over the years if they are expanded by size or diversity of resources, they can be converted to parks. A great example of this conversion is the Grand Canyon National Park, created initially as a monument.
The Pullman Effect: Monument designations are also flexible, insofar as they allow for a balance between development and true conservation of historic resources. National monuments also protect what are called ‘existing rights’ within the that boundary of the monument; this basically means whatever activity was allowed prior to the monument being established will likely be allowed to continue. It is thanks to these special features of  National Monument status that Pullman will be allowed to attract development, grow, and fill in some of the urban blight that has occurred within the district over the years—all while continuing to be part of the fabric of Chicago. This will be a positive economic effect as well as result in a physical healing of the urban landscape in the area, which will in turn, further protect the cultural resources in Pullman.

Historical / Cultural Origins, Legislative Creation
National Park: National Parks are often deliberately created for conservation of natural resources purposes. Yellowstone National Park, the nation’s first National Park, was created by Ulysses S. Grant in 1873, in order to preserve it “from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.” Today, National Parks are created through acts of Congress.
National Monument: The ability for the President and congress to create national monuments is the outcome of a congressional-led creation of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which resulted from concerns about preserving Native American and other archeological sites. This Act authorized the President, without Congressional approval, to unilaterally proclaim “historic landmarks, historic or prehistoric structures, and other objects of similar historic or scientific interest” as national monuments, often before they were destroyed while waiting for congress to act. Signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt, he designated the Devils’ Tower in Wyoming, known to Native Americans as Mateo Tepee, the first National Monument.
The Pullman Effect: The designation of Historic Pullman as a National Monument will help to diversify the National Park Service portfolio by including sites of built cultural significance, in addition to the many of natural significance. This may in fact mark a new way forward in terms of how important historical areas of America can be preserved for future generations.

By The Numbers, Funding, and Here at Home
National Parks: There are nearly 60 National Parks, ranging from 5,549.75 Acres (Hot Springs, Arkansas) to 8,323,147.49 Acres (Wrangell-St.Elias Mountains in Alaska.) They are funded through a combination of government, user fees and philanthropic donations. Funding is typically broken into two categories: discretionary (park operations) and mandatory spending (mandated by legislation).  There are no National Parks currently in Illinois.
National Monuments: There are just over 100 National Monuments, ranging in size from 1 to 89,000,000 Acres. Of these, 20 are Landscape Conservation System National Monuments (LCSNM) in 9 Western States—these large swaths of area are generally managed by the Bureau of Land Management, such as the California Coastal National Monument. There are currently no National Monuments in Illinois.

Regarding funding, Congress stated in 1970 as part of the General Authorities Act and the 1978 Redwood Act that all units of the National Parks System are to be treated on equal status, regardless of title, and not as constituent parts. This means that resources managed by the national system are managed under the same laws and regulations—this goes for parks and monuments. They also do not differ in their objective, stated by Congress in 1916: “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations." It should also be noted that the NPS also manages other property designations such as Memorials, Historic Sites, Parkways, Recreation Areas, Seashores, Riverways, and Trails, just to name a few. Each designation has specific legislation written for it that entails the rules for it’s management and use of funds as well as what fees if any should be charged for entrance into the property.
The Pullman Effect: For Non-LCSNM, sometimes man-made monuments, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, as well as the Pullman District, these properties are often significantly smaller in size due to their location in dense urban areas and require less management dollars on behalf of the National Parks Service to operate, compared to their bigger brothers out west. It is likely the creation of Pullman as National Monument will continue to show that preserving these smaller, cultural, often built historical resources provides an economic engine that will require less fuel than our larger resources to maintain itself into perpetuity.

Supervision and Management
National Park: National Parks are supervised and managed by the National Parks Service.
National Monument: National Monuments are a bit different - 6 federal agencies (National Parks Service, US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Armed Forces Retirement Home and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) manage National Monument properties all over the US. Of the nearly 110 monuments, only 6 are co-managed by two agencies.
The Pullman Effect: According to the Chicago Tribune, that the Federal Government will only own the Administration Building in Pullman, and the Hotel Florence will be managed and owned by the State of Illinois. There is an expectation that a combination of federal money and private dollars will be utilized in order to renovate the Clocktower Building into a visitors center, with minimal Park Service staffing.

Tourism / Economic Impacts on Surrounding Community
Historically, for both Parks and Monuments all over the United States, now including Pullman, designation means increased awareness of it’s existence on a national level. It establishes the value of cultural resources, enhancing the experience of visitors and thereby increasing visitation to the area. With an increase in visitation/tourism, other economic benefits such as visitor spending and job creation are made possible, providing a positive economic benefit to the surrounding community.

Future Architectural Design and Development with the Pullman District
In regards to how development will exactly be handled within the footprint of the Pullman National Monument, there are more questions than answers at this point. It is unknown how fees will be charged for touring the National Monument, nor is it known how existing residents’ homes and new development will obtain approvals for changes to existing construction and establishment of new development within the zone. It is the hope that if a permit for development is presented to the City in the typical fashion, that coordination between the municipality and the National Park Service will be coordinated at a high level in order to expedite development, rather than hinder it with low-level bureaucratic red tape that home owners and developers will have to navigate individually. Given the amount current interest in Pullman by private and non-profit agencies, and the designation as Monument to allow that development and interest to escalate, a plan should be created to incentivize development in the area. Finally, it is also unclear if, like other National Monuments, the federal government will have a right of first refusal when it comes to sale of currently private property within the Monument.

In closing, while the differences between National Monuments and National Parks are nuanced, they do matter for the future of Pullman in it’s ability to continue to exist as part of the fabric of the City and to attract and allow development, both a driver and an outcome of the tourism boost that Pullman will experience thanks it’s designation as a National Monument.

Web Sources:
U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management
National Park Service
Chicago Tribune

Comments are closed.