In his article on the proposed Salem Baptist Church project in the Pullman Industrial Park ("The Unconverted," May 25), your reporter Ben Joravsky erroneously stated that Mr. Tom Shepherd is the president of the Pullman Civic Organization. I am the president of that organization and will be so until my term expires on June 20, when Tom will succeed me. In that position, I have had to deal with this issue for the last several months. I am concerned that your article leaves the impression that opposition to this project may be much larger than it actually is.
Representatives of the Salem Baptist Church, including Reverend James Meeks, have made public presentations of the current status of the project at two well-publicized meetings held here in Pullman. The first, last November, was attended by 125 Pullman residents, and the second, this month, was attended by 160 of them. I have no way of knowing how many of those present opposed the project because no poll was taken at either meeting. Historic Pullman is a stable and fully integrated community with a population of roughly 3,500. It is not "a predominantly white community," as your reporter states. This he could have easily confirmed by looking at the census. From their attendance at these meetings, it can only be concluded that well over 90 percent of Pullman's residents are either not concerned about the project at all or support it. Of these the former are clearly in the vast majority.
It should be noted that much of the site the Salem Baptist Church plans to develop was still under the waters of Lake Calumet when George Pullman died in 1897. In later years the Pullman Company filled this area in to provide rail sidings and some nondescript brick sheds for the repair of cars, which they continued to use up to 1970, when the land was cleared for the present industrial park. Your article erroneously states that this was the site of "paint and brick-making factories." No such facilities were ever on this property. Furthermore, none of it was ever part of the famous planned community, and for that reason it has never been considered worth including in either the national or city historic landmark districts.
I hope this clarifies the issue of local support for the Salem Baptist Church's Pullman project and the site's lack of historic significance for you and your readers.
Charles E. Gregersen, AIA
Pullman Civic Organization
Ben Joravsky replies:
I could have been more careful when I said "Pullman remains mostly white," as there are plenty of representatives of other racial groups, but according to the Pullman Visitor Center, whites do make up the largest racial group in Pullman.
The record is not so clear about the paint and brick factories. (Shepherd says they were on the site; Gregersen says they were not.) Maps on file at the Pullman Visitor Center show that there were several industrial buildings on that land before 1970. Some of the industries are identified, such as the one called a varnishing shop. Other industries are not identified.
Finally, humble apologies to Charles Gregersen for running him out of office early. Tom Shepherd is the organization's president-elect. His term officially begins June 20.