The buildings at Naper Settlement take visitors back to our city’s roots. But there’s more to the story than what’s inside. Every plant, every flower and every tree tells a story.
“The gardens at Naper Settlement help to set the atmosphere for our visitors and also help give a fuller picture of what life was like in the times that we’re interpreting,” said Jennifer Bridge, Curator of Exhibits and Interpretation.
Visitors to the Martin-Mitchell Mansion walk by black walnut trees once indigenous to the area and can even experience an herb garden very similar to what Carolyn Martin-Mitchell would have seen outside her window.
“The Victorians grew herbs for various medicinal purposes and also just for fragrance,” said Donna DeFalco, Marketing and Sales Representative.
The Paw Paw Post Office, the city’s first, was named after the fruit trees that grew around it.
“The Paw Paw trees are a native tree to North America, and the fruit that they have it’s said was George Washington’s favorite desert,” said DeFalco. “When chilled, it tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana. And also Thomas Jefferson grew them at his estate in Monticello.”
Walk behind the post office and you’ll see a victory garden modeled after a style of vegetable garden that started in WWI and became popular in WWII.
“People grew vegetables because most of the canned goods that were produced were needed to go over seas for the soldiers,” said Bridge. “So to supply the home front with foods, people started growing their own in gardens.”
The settlement donates the fresh produce from the garden to Loaves and Fishes food pantry.
The landscaping is designed with both 19th century and modern themes in mind. Near the Pre-Emption House, visitors can see rain gardens that absorb precipitation.
“They use native plants which have the deep roots and that helps to filter out the storm water,” said DeFalco.
While there may not have been much rain this summer, thanks to volunteers that water around the 12 acres of land, the plants can still continue to flourish.
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