Naperville’s Original 19 blocks

It’s hard to imagine downtown Naperville without shopping, dining and hundreds of people on any given day, but when town founder Joseph Naper decided to develop 80 acres of his land he had a similar vision. Bryan Ogg from the Naper Settlement recently took 11 residents on a walking tour through the original 19 blocks of Naperville.

“60% of Naperville had German heritage, that was in the 1860’s,” said Ogg. “The Early German influences in Naperville can be seen in a lot of building and businesses that really helped build Naperville today.”

One of the first stops along the tour was Joseph Naper’s Homestead where he lived until he died in 1862. The City of Naperville purchased the lot in 2006 and workers are currently creating a park in honor of Naper.

“You will be able to go through the park. We are anticipating a statue of Joseph Naper, a very heroic Statue,” said Ogg.

Some of the other buildings along the tour include the Daniel Strubler Blacksmith Shop on Washington Street, which is now PotBelly, the Kailer Double Store, which is now Kuma’s, and Hannah Ditzler’s old home at 241 West Van Buren Street. According to Ogg, Ditzler was a librarian at Nichol’s Library and a principal at Naper Academy.

“She has a nationally known fabric diary,” said Ogg. “Hannah collected swatches of all her dresses from the time she was a kid until the time of the scrapbook completion in 1905.”

Naper Settlement has 16 volumes of Ditzler’s diaries that she kept from the time she was a child. Over on Jackson where the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center is today was the site of the Stenger Brewery Malt House, and Ogg says that was the perfect location for brewing beer because the limestone that was there.

“It is important to tunnel into the limestone because the earth maintains a certain temperature when it is enclosed,” said Ogg.

In addition to a long walk on a nice day all the residents on the tour learned something about their city.

“I thought [the] most interesting [thing was] seeing the buildings and how it seemed to develop from a few people and then how it grew and the different types of things that were done in this area and how that’s connected to the present as well, said Naperville resident Alison Brown.

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