Brothers and lifelong Pullman residents Alfonso and Ray Quiroz say it's "a dream come true" to see the building where they used to work "come back to life."
The pair was hired at the Pullman Company in 1959 and worked in the factory for nearly 24 years.
George M. Pullman founded the company in 1867, leasing cars to the railroads and providing the employees necessary to serve the passengers. His early sleeping cars evolved into luxurious accommodations that featured carpeting, draperies, upholstered chairs and an unparalleled level of customer service.
"All these people coming down here, I’m very happy to see all this. It’s like waking up the dead," said Alfonso Quiroz.
The Pullman site was designated a national monument by President Barack Obama in 2015. Since then, millions of dollars have been spent to renovate and preserve the property.
The Pullman district was the first model planned industrial community in the United States and was the scene of the violent 1894 Pullman strike. The district is significant for its influence on urban planning and design, as well as its role in American labor history, including the 1894 Pullman Strike and Boycott.
"The holiday of Labor Day has its roots right here. I don’t just mean right here in Chicago. Literally right here in Pullman," said Robert Reiter, the president of Chicago's Federation of Labor.
"Pullman cut wages while maintaining high rents in the company town, squeezing workers until they could take no more," he said during a ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of monument.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was also at the event, said the Pullman community has long been at the crossroads of the labor movement in the United States.
"This community helped put Chicago and Illinois on the map as industrial age powerhouses and served as a backdrop for the historic strike that would reignite labor and civil rights movement across the country, rally people against labor exploitations and lead to Labor Day becoming a federal holiday," said Mayor Lightfoot.
Gov. JB Pritzker, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Robin Kelly and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland were all on hand to cut the ribbon and officially celebrate the grand opening of the Visitor's Center, located in the famous clock tower, on Monday.
The monument boundaries stretch from 103rd to 115th and east from the Norfolk Southern tracks to Cottage Grove Avenue, encompassing not only the factory grounds but also private homes, The Hotel Florence and the A. Philip Randolph Porter Museum.
"The Pullman community has a long history of being resilient, determined never to forget nor be forgotten," said Teri Gage, the superintendent of the National Park Service.
The National Park Service works with other partners to administer the site.