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Two Midwestern sites gain national park status

Pullman National Historical Park, the first national park site in Chicago, had its status changed to a national park by the outgoing 117th Congress. (Photo/NPS)

Pullman National Historical Park, the first national park site in Chicago, had its status changed to a national park by the outgoing 117th Congress. (Photo/NPS)

WASHINGTON — As the 2022 congressional session wound down, two Illinois monuments had their statuses officially changed to national historical parks.

New Philadelphia National Historic Site and Pullman National Historical Park are the latest additions to the national parks system.

photo

The Burdick House is part of the New Philadelphia National Historic Site, which recently had its status changed to a national park at the end of 2022. (Photo/NPS)

New Philadelphia National Historic Site has been established as the newest national park to commemorate the history of early 19th century Black pioneers in Illinois.

Located near Barry, Illinois, New Philadelphia is the first town known to be officially registered by an African American. Frank McWorter, once an enslaved man, bought his freedom and the freedom of 15 family members by mining for crude niter in Kentucky caves and processing the mined material into saltpeter, by hiring his time to other settlers, and by selling lots in New Philadelphia, the town he founded.

The site became a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009. New Philadelphia National Historic Site is now the 424th park in the National Park System.

The protection of the original town's location as a national historic site will permanently safeguard it for future generations and help preserve the important stories of Frank McWorter and others from the first African American town in the United States.

“We welcome New Philadelphia National Historic Site as the 424th national park and invite all to learn about the town and those who lived there. The designation of New Philadelphia National Historic Site ensures that Frank McWorter’s struggle, sacrifices and legacy will never be forgotten,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “It is an honor to steward these parks and programs that preserve the diverse pieces of our nation’s history.”

Another piece of legislation redesignated Pullman National Monument to Pullman National Historical Park.

The historic Pullman community was designated a national monument by President Obama in 2015, making it the first National Park Service unit in Chicago.

The park tells the story of America's first planned model industrial community, the sleeping car magnate who created it, and the workers who lived there. The park is significant for its influence on railroad transportation, industrial innovation, urban planning and design, and the American labor and civil rights movements. The Pullman Strike and Boycott of 1894, and the establishment of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, are watershed moments in American labor history.

"This is a very exciting and meaningful change for Pullman and yet another tribute to all of the Pullman neighbors and partners who have worked for decades to preserve this beautiful historic neighborhood," said park superintendent Teri Gage. "We are so appreciative of the Illinois delegation for their recognition and support of this special place. The name change will help visitors better understand the resource and what they can expect to experience at Pullman."

Other provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 and other end-of-session bills include:

  • Establishing the Japanese American World War II History Network in the NPS and making the Norman Y. Mineta Japanese American Confinement Education Grants Program part of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Program. The network and program work to preserve sites used to confine Japanese Americans during World War II and fund educative efforts of preserving the important history of Japanese American confinement. The work of the network and grant program helps honor the people who were incarcerated through the sharing of their stories and allows all park visitors to learn from the difficult stories of formerly incarcerated Japanese Americans.
  • Designating the Ukraine Independence Park in Washington, DC. The park -- bound by 22nd Street NW, P Street NW, and Florida Avenue NW -- contains the Taras Shevchenko Memorial, which was dedicated in 1964. Shevchenko, a 19th Century Ukrainian poet and artist, spent many years imprisoned for his pro-Ukrainian independence activities in Tsarist Russia. He is revered for his literary works and self-sacrificing contributions to the people of Ukraine. The Ukranian Independence Park represents support for the Ukrainian people’s right to a free and independent state.
  • Designating the Butterfield Overland National Historic Trail. The Butterfield Overland Mail Company, also known as the Butterfield Stage, held a United States Mail contract to transport mail and passengers over the “ox-bow route” between the eastern termini of St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee, and the western terminus of San Francisco, California. The postal route and stagecoach service operated from 1858 to 1861. With the advent of the Civil War, this southern mail route was discontinued and moved farther north. The route served a critical need at that time, tying disparate parts of the country together and providing an overland route that ran entirely within the continent’s borders.
  • Establishing the Chilkoot National Historic Trail within Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. During the Klondike Gold Rush from 1897 to 1898, thousands of men, women and children used the trail to travel from Dyea, Alaska, to Lake Bennett, British Columbia. Today, over 10,000 people a year enjoy this 33-mile recreational trail where they can find hundreds of artifacts left behind by gold seekers alongside the trail. Establishing this route as a National Historic Trail allows the NPS to preserve this trail and the surrounding artifacts for visitors to enjoy for generations to come.
  • Designating seven new National Heritage Areas (NHAs): Alabama Black Belt, Bronzeville-Black Metropolis, Downeast Maine, Northern Neck, St Croix, Southern Campaign of the Revolution and Southern Maryland. The NPS intimately works with local communities in NHAs to preserve local history, support sustainable economic development and protect natural and cultural resources. These newly designated National Heritage Areas will build interest in local heritage and stories while boosting and supporting local economies.
  • Adding to the protection of important historical and natural resources by expanding the boundaries of several existing parks, including: the addition of 97 acres to Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona, the addition of the Nystrom Elementary School to Rosie the Riveter/WWII Homefront National Historical Park in California, the addition of 46 acres within the boundary of Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Louisiana, expansion of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield to include Newtonia Battlefield in Missouri, authorization to acquire property for a visitor center at Ste. Genevieve National Historical Park in Missouri, and authorization to acquire 166 acres — including the remains of Fort Brown — as an addition to Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Texas.
  • Addition of two new rivers to the Wild and Scenic Rivers System: the York River, in Maine, and the Housatonic River, in Connecticut, have been added to this collection of exceptional rivers that are designated to protect their free-flowing condition, water quality, and outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

The NPS works closely with many stakeholders dedicated to the preservation of these important places. Their dedication helps the NPS tell new stories and share a more complete history of the United States.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 provides $3.47 billion for the NPS for fiscal year 2023. This increase of $210.3 million (+6.4%) in funds from the previous year supports increased operations at many of the newest parks, invests in bandwidth, housing and other infrastructure, and increases grant funds for partners’ work in documenting, interpreting and preserving a broader swath of American stories.

Information provided by NPS

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