"This place is a milestone in our journey toward a more perfect union."

President Barack Obama
Pullman National Monument Designation Ceremony

President Obama's Designation Address

On February 19, 2015, President Obama returned to Pullman to designate the historic district a national monument, the first in the State of Illinois. It was the Roseland and Pullman neighborhoods located on Chicago’s far South Side where President Obama spent roughly three and a half years as a community organizer, beginning in 1985. He worked out of an office in the rectory of Holy Rosary Church located on 113th Street next to Palmer Park and walking distance from Pullman’s Factory Administration Building with its iconic clock tower and stunning Victorian masterwork the Hotel Florence, and its tidy historic row houses.

At Pullman’s designation ceremony, Obama placed friendly faces from his community organizing days, like Father Bill Stenzel, in the stands next to National Park Service officials and other dignitaries. In Obama’s declaration, he made the case for Pullman’s national significance noting its distinctive architecture and urban planning, as well as, its industrial and labor history. But as he continued, it became increasingly clear that this monument designation was also something very personal to him. He revealed that Michelle Obama’s great grandfather had been a Pullman Porter and described passionately how the work of A. Philip Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters paved the way for him to become the first African American president: “This place is a milestone in our journey to a more perfect union,” he proclaimed.

Presidential Proclamation 9233

On February 19, 2015, by Proclamation 9233, President Obama established the Pullman National Monument under the authority of the Antiquities Act. The Antiquities Act of 1906 (“Antiquities Act”) allows the president to create national monuments to protect historic or scientific landmarks, structures or objects […] and allows the president to reserve the land necessary to protect these landmarks, structures, or objects.” In accordance with the Antiquities Act, President Obama reserved lands encompassing the majority of the Pullman Historic District, approximately 203 acres, within a “National Monument Boundary,” “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected” (54 U.S.C. §320301).

Located upon these lands within the “National Monument Boundary” are all of the residential structures, the vast majority of the industrial structures, the landscape features, and the remains thereof; that once comprised George Pullman’s model town, “the first planned industrial community in the United States” and “the world’s most perfect town.” The proclamation gave the National Park Service fee title ownership of the “Clock Tower” portion of the Factory Administration Building (.26 acres). The State of Illinois would continue to own the Hotel Florence, and the remainder of Pullman’s historic structures and sites would remain in private hands.

The “National Monument Boundary” functions essentially like a zoning ordinance over non-federally held lands within the boundary. For example, a zoning ordinance establishes acceptable land uses like “commercial” or “residential,” etc. In the case of Pullman, “the monument shall be the dominant reservation” and the primary purpose for these lands is now preservation of the historic resources located upon these lands. As long as the historic resources in private ownership are maintained in a reasonably satisfactory condition (i.e. “unimpaired,” or free from “acceptable impacts”—these are technical terms explicated fully in NPS regulations), the National Park Service does not exert any “control” over these lands. However, when park resources on non-federally held lands within the boundary are threatened, the National Park Service has the duty and the power to act to protect these resources through a variety of “land protection methods.”


"Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof."

Proclamation 9233

In addition to establishing the “National Monument Boundary,” the proclamation also defines the monument’s three fundamental purposes: “(1) to preserve the historic resources; (2) to interpret the industrial history and labor struggles and achievements associated with the Pullman Company, including the rise and role of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; and (3) to interpret the history of urban planning and design of which the planned company town of Pullman is a nationally significant example.”

The evidence is overwhelming in Proclamation 9233 that President Obama intended the monument designation to protect all of the “historic resources” located within the “Pullman Historic District” and not simply the “Clock Tower” that the National Park Service owns. He uses the phrase “Pullman Historic District” (an abbreviated form of “Pullman National Historic Landmark District”) 11 times throughout the proclamation. In addition, he states explicitly that “it is in the public interest to preserve and protect the historic objects in the Pullman Historic District.”

Proclamation National Monument Boundary Map

Lastly, the “National Monument Boundary” (see map above) also delimits a new unit of the National Park System, “The Pullman National Monument,” to be managed directly by the National Park Service (MP 1.3.4). As managers of the monument, the National Park Service must abide by the Organic Act of 1916 (“Organic Act”) which requires them to “provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations” (54 U.S.C. §100101).