President Obama Designates First National Park in Chicago, Others in Colorado, Hawaii

Including the first in Chicago, and others in Colorado and Hawaii.

February 19, 2015, 4:20 PM
PHOTO: View of a row of residences in Pullman, Illinois, the company town created for workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company, Chicago,1908.
View of a row of residences in Pullman, Illinois, the company town created for workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company, Chicago,1908. President Barack Obama designated the neighborhood as a national park on Thursday.
Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

— -- It’s always been a dream of President Obama’s to designate a national park in freezing conditions, he joked at a speech today in Chicago.

That's what he did.

The president announced three new national parks today, including one in a Chicago neighborhood he said he used to drive past every day on the way to his first job.

It was 6 degrees with winds up to 20 miles per hour in Chicago today, according to the National Weather Service.

The visit took place only days before Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is up for re-election. The president praised the mayor, his former chief of staff, for fighting for the national park and for new opportunity and jobs in Chicago.

The three new parks -- in Illinois, Colorado and Hawaii -- are some of 16 federal parks that Obama has created or expanded using the Antiquities Act, first used by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 to create Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

Next year is the centennial of the National Park Service and the new parks are part of a campaign to get Americans and students to “Find Your Park.”

Representatives of the White House declined to say how much the new parks would cost but said they expected it to balance out with increased visitation and economic benefit to cities around the parks.

Pullman Historic Neighborhood

The Pullman neighborhood was originally built in 1879 outside the city limits of Chicago to house workers employed by the Pullman Palace Car Company, many of whom were former slaves. It was a fully functioning city hailed as the first industrial town. It was one of the featured attractions at the 1893 World's Fair Exhibition, according to the Historic Pullman Foundation website.

Pullman workers went on strike in 1894 when George Pullman lowered wages but not rent in the town, which prompted Congress to establish the Labor Day holiday only six days after the strike ended. In the 1920s, workers created the first black labor union.

“This place has been a milestone to our dream of building a more perfect union,” Obama said, calling the strikes the beginning of modern workers’ rights, such as a 40-hour work week, overtime pay and the right to organize.

The president and first lady have a personal connection to Pullman as well. Michelle Obama’s great-grandfather was one of the porters.

“Without this place, Michelle wouldn't be where she is,” Obama said in his remarks.

The district became a national historic landmark in 1970 and as one of the first Chicago landmarks in 1972. It is now the first National Park unit in the city.

Browns Canyon

This more than 21,000-acre section of central Colorado as a natural area that is home to many varieties of plants and wildlife. Browns Canyon is about two hours southwest of Denver and a nine-hour drive from the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Along the Arkansas River, the area is a destination for whitewater rafting and is surrounded by national forests.

Members of Colorado's congressional delegation and the editorial board of the Denver Post endorsed federal protection of the land after mining claims threatened to disrupt the area, according to a 2013 Denver Post editorial.

Honouliuli Internment Camp site

About 10 miles from Pearl Harbor, the Honouliuli Internment Camp opened in 1943 and was used to confine up to 400 Japanese-American citizens and immigrants during World War II. Despite being the largest and longest-used internment camp, it was mostly forgotten until 2002.

The 160-acres on the island of Oahu were donated to the National Park Service by Monsanto, which has owned the land since 2007.

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