News Local/State

Illinois Town Founded By African American Could Become National Park


Illinois officials are hopeful a site in western Illinois that is believed to be the first town established in the United States by an African American could become a national park.

New Philadelphia in Pike County was a community founded in 1836 by Frank McWorter, who was a freed slave.

Congressman Aaron Schock (R-Peoria) said New Philadelphia embodied a vision for America. He is among those pushing legislation to designate the site as a park, but he said there has been a hold up in the U.S. Senate….

"There's a concern about establishing more National Parks, period,"  Schock explained. "Obviously, some members of the senate had financial concerns. We worked through those concerns in the House. And it passed the House unanimously."

Schock said creating a national park would allow more people to know the story of McWorter. He said it work in tandem with Lincoln attractions in Springfield.

"We get a lot of tourism to the region already," Schock said. "It would make for a nice side-trip, outside of Springfield a ways, and I think it would be a great benefit to Pike County where it resides."

Schock said both U.S. Sens. Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin support the New Philadelphia plan and have written letters asking for the bill to be taken up. A pavilion was dedicated at the former town site on Tuesday.