In August, hundreds of residents gathered at Naper Homestead as a larger-than-life image of our town founder Joseph Naper was unveiled, standing in the same spot he originally settled in 1831.
“The statue is a great fantastic symbol, not only of our heritage but all the partnerships that came together to make Naperville possible,” said Councilman Dave Wentz.
In 2006 and 2007 the Heritage Society held two archeological digs, finding the original foundations for Naper’s three homes, his trading post with the Native Americans, and thousands of artifacts documenting his history.
Over the next four years, they worked to preserve everything, and in 2011, dedicated Naper Homestead.
During the dedication, they announced plans to place a statue at the corner, and enlisted Naperville resident and Pulitzer Prize winning artist Dick Locher to come up with the final concept.
“We thought it would be great if he was out surveying and he came to this spot and he stopped and thought ‘Wow, I can have the saw mill right here and Naperville right here,’” said Locher.
Jeff Adams, owner of Mt. Morris based InBronze, has created a number of statues in downtown Naperville. He took Locher’s original drawing and helped it come to life, adding his own thoughts here or there.
“The stories are real important, particularly with portraits pieces,” said Adams. “That’s part of, I think, pulling the whole spirit together, doing people you never met, you’ve never seen them and so whatever you can pick up on their personalities or their quirks or things like that is real helpful.”
The final statue is 1,500 pounds, stands at nearly ten feet tall and is made of bronze.
Once the statue was finished, they loaded him onto the back of a truck and he went on the same journey that he did in 1831.
“We really wanted Joseph Naper to come to Naperville again for his coming from the east and so we directed him down I-88, and then off of I-88 onto Ogden Ave., which was part of the southwest Plank Road from Chicago to Ottawa. So he came down Ogden, down Washington just as the old stagecoaches did, then he came down Jefferson to his Homestead,” said Bryan Ogg, Curator of Research, Naper Settlement.
Those involved hope seeing Naper’s statue will remind residents to pursue their dreams and are happy to see history come alive.
“For me personally as a historian, getting out of the library and getting out of the two dimensional letters and diaries and newspapers and seeing a three dimensional history still living is really rewarding,” said Ogg.
“There’s no feeling in the world that you can describe when you see it come in metal with the same expression that you had dreamed up in the synapses of your brain. You conjure up a picture and it becomes three dimensional, and it becomes potent, and it becomes a part of history, and people of Naperville come up and see it, you can’t get any better than that,” said Locher.
The statue was unveiled on the 151st anniversary of Naper’s death.
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