By Jason Heidemann for the Orbitz Travel Blog
The cool thing about being president of the United States is that he gets to make big things happen with the wave of a magic wand (or the stroke of his pen, as the case may be). In February, President Obama did just that when he used his executive authority to declare the Pullman Historic District in Chicago, Hawaii's Honouliuli Internment Camp and Colorado's Arkansas River Valley as National Monuments-- officially placing them within the country's National Parks System. All three are worthy of exploration on your next visit to Chicago, Honolulu and Colorado respectively. Here's what you need to know about each one:
Pullman Historic District, Chicago:
In the late 19th century, railroad magnate George Pullman purchased a patch of land on Chicago's far South Side and turned it into a model industrial town where his workers could live and also build his luxury railroad cars.
The town's population reached a peak of 9,000 and was eventually subsumed by the city of Chicago. But in 1894, strikes ensued and federal troops had to be brought in to end it. In 1907 all residential properties were sold and have been privately owned since. By mid-century much of the surrounding communities had fallen into disrepair, but Pullman residents joined together to fight an intended demolition and the area was given National Landmark Historic status in 1971.
Considered integral to the U.S. labor movement including the formation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (the first all African-American union in the country), Pullman National Monument today is place where visitors can book a guided tour or just walk around and admire the brick row houses and town structures like the Hotel Florence (pictured), the clock tower and factory and Greenstone Church.
Honouliuli Internment Camp, Honolulu:
Among the many reasons the Hawaiian islands are blessed is the fact they contain seven national parks and two national monuments -- the newest of which is Honouliuli National Monument -- a former World War II internment camp.
Located on the island of Oahu, Honouliuli National Monument (along with Pearl Harbor) serves as yet another grim reminder of wartime atrocities. The largest and longest-serving of Hawaii's internment camps, Honouliuli is located at the sugar plantation town of Waipahu and ran from 1943 until 1946. During this three year period it held a resident population of 400 internees who were Japanese- and European-American, resident aliens and also more than 4,000 prisoners of war. Conditions were so bad it was referred to as "Hell Valley."
Abandoned and forgotten since the end of World War II but rediscovered in 2002 by volunteers from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the 160-acre Honouliuli currently has no facilities and is available to visit by reservation only.
Arkansas River Valley, Colorado (aka Browns Canyon National Monument):
As if the state of Colorado weren't already gorgeous enough -- a land blessed with towering mountains and deep valleys -- its citizens can now sigh a collective relief that the 21,586 acres that comprise Browns Canyon National Monument in Chafee County will be protected for generations to come.
A nature lover's paradise, Browns Canyon is a mecca for whitewater rafting, fishing and hunting and also is home to the American black bear, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, red foxes, bighorn sheep, elk, peregrine falcons and golden eagles. Legislation was introduced in 2005 that would provide protection but failed due to the influence of the National Rifle Association who insisted that protection status would limit hunting in the region.
Visitors to the canyon can expect little in the way of development. There are few roads and camping opportunities are limited to those reached by hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. There are about four miles of non-motorized trails on the San Isabel National Forest portion of the monument that provide access for those activities.
More from the Orbitz Travel Blog: