Ten days each year, America’s National Parks welcome visitors fee-free! In honor of the National Park Service’s Birthday, the next Fee Free Day is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 25.
It’s a great reason to visit one of our nation’s natural, cultural or historical landmarks – including two Illinois sites within a half-day’s drive of Kane County.
Pullman National Monument | Chicago
One of the National Park System’s newest landmarks is Pullman National Monument, designated by former President Barack Obama in 2015.
Located on Chicago’s South Side, the historic Pullman neighborhood was the home of the Pullman Company, which manufactured railroad sleeping cars, and was the largest employer of African Americans in the early years of the 20th century. The district also is famous for being one of the first planned manufacturing and residential communities with amenities.
While the Factory Complex and hotel are currently under restoration, there’s plenty to see and do, says Sue Bennett, chief of visitor services and community outreach for the National Park Service.
“The actual [National Park Service] ownership within the more than 200-acre monument is the historic clock tower, which is in the process of being restored and will become the visitor center,” she says. The tower sits in the midst of the 12-acre Pullman State Historic Site that includes the Pullman Factory Complex and Hotel Florence.
There are two nonprofit museums within the monument boundary. The Historic Pullman Foundation visitor center focuses on the life of the residents and Pullman workers. The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum focuses on the contributions of African Americans to Labor History. The state and federal staff offer free Factory Complex tours at 11:30 a.m. the first and third Sunday of the month, running through August.
The Historic Pullman Foundation offers neighborhood walking tours at 1:30 p.m. the first Sunday of each month (for a fee). For more information, visit www.pullmanil.org.
“The tours offer an in-depth look at a planned residential community, stories of the people who lived here and the lasting impact of the Pullman dream,” says Bennett.
Learn more about Pullman National Monument and its area partners by visiting www.nps.gov/pull/planyourvisit. Fees are listed at each organization’s website, along with a schedule of free events that take place throughout the year.
The Lincoln’s Home National Historic Site | Springfield
As our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln held the nation together during the most trying time in our history. But visiting the Springfield home where he lived for 17 years with his wife, Mary, and their sons, reveals Lincoln as not only a politician and historical figure, but as a husband, father and neighbor.
A ranger-led, 20- to 25-minute tour of Lincoln’s two-story, 12-room house, takes visitors through the downstairs parlor and sitting rooms, the dining room and kitchen, and upstairs through the bedrooms and maid’s room.
The Greek Revival home is the centerpiece of a residential neighborhood that has been restored to the way it looked in 1860. Lincoln’s neighbors included merchants and lawyers, a druggist, railroad fireman and minister. The neighborhood includes 12 homes, including two that are open to the public. The Dean home features exhibits related to Lincoln and his family. An heirloom garden behind the house offers a glimpse of how city families grew their own vegetables and herbs. The Arnold home exhibits focus on historic preservation.
Tour tickets are free and available inside the home’s visitor center on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours are limited to 15 visitors at a time, and begin at 9 a.m. The day’s last tour begins at 4:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/liho/planyourvisit/lincoln-home-tour.htm
If you go
Pullman National Monument
Visitor Center Address:
11141 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Chicago
Lincoln Home National Historic Site
413 S. Eighth St., Springfield