In 1831 Joseph Naper, his wife Almeda, and a group of families settled in what we know now as Naperville. In 2006 and 2007 members of the Naperville Heritage Society conducted archeological digs at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street and discovered Naper’s home, along with multiple artifacts. Since then the society has been working to preserve the area by creating a park to honor the history of the city’s founder.
City and state officials, community members and President Abraham Lincoln recently gathered at the ribbon cutting for Naper Homestead to explore the area and learn more about Naperville’s history.
“The archeological discoveries that provide us glimpses of the human story of the people who call this community home has been made a reality,” said Peggy Frank, President and CEO of the Naperville Heritage Society and Naper Settlement.
At the site you’ll be able to stand in the outlines of a few original buildings that Naper built.
“Although we are still preserving the original foundations under the ground, the park today is a physical reminder of where that original log cabin stood,” said Frank. “That first trading post with the Native Americans, as well as the first framed home built with sawn logs from his mill. We’re pleased that we can have this new interpretive feature to add to the rich storytelling of our town’s heritage.”
“You can feel the spaces, you can stand in them, and you can understand the changes in the structures of the 1800s to the 1900s,” said Mary Lou Wehrli, Naperville resident. “Naper would be so stunned.”
When Naper first came to the area he worked together with the Native Americans. At the city’s ceremony members of the Native American community blessed the park.
“Our people also loved this area, that fact has not changed,” said Joseph Standing Bear Schranz, Founder and President of the Midwest SOARRING Foundation. “We need to remember our heritage and the people. This represents a very good attempt at keeping that heritage alive here.”
Many in the community hope that Naper Homestead can be an example of preserving history and carrying it on for the next generation to enjoy.
“I know moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas will enjoy bringing their children here to teach them about the beginning of Naperville,” said Mayor George Pradel.
But the park isn’t quite finished. Naperville Heritage Society officials are raising money to create a life-sized statue of Joseph Naper, created by resident and former Dick Tracy cartoonist Dick Locher that will stand at the entrance of the park.
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