Peter Kroehler Legacy Tour
Napervillians walked in the footsteps of an important person in Naperville history; Peter Kroehler – mayor, businessman and philanthropist.
He played a key role in helping Naperville grow. To showcase what he’s left behind, historian Bryan Ogg led a Kroehler Legacy Tour.
“Peter Kroehler was one of 13 children, born in a very small town. A rural area of Minnesota, near the Mississippi River,” said Ogg.
His Start in Naperville
A group of 60 learned about his start in Naperville, working under the guidance of another major figure – James Nichols.
It was thanks to this mentorship that Kroehler grew as a businessman, when Nichols introduced him to the Naperville Lounge Factory.
“He became the secretary of the company, he was also a salesman. And I have a good idea that he swept the floor from the sawdust and probably hauled wood back and forth from the railroad,” said Ogg.
In just a few years he became president of the furniture business.
And to grow it even further, he merged it with three other furniture plants to form the Kroehler Manufacturing Company in 1911.
The company became an industry standard and became one of the town’s biggest employers.
A Fun Fact
During World War II, the plant added to its production items to help the war effort.
One of those items – a propeller – appeared in a photo shoot with a famous American star.
“One of America’s icons was posing with that prop as a brunette, and it was a part of the war effort and everything. And that turned out to be Marilyn Monroe, and that was her first gig was posing with a Kroehler prop,” said Ogg.
The company’s building has now been transformed into the 5th Avenue Station.
Other Contributions to Naperville
Kroehler helped launch the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building in 1910 – raising over $15,000 in just one week.
Also bearing his name, the Kroehler Mansion on 126 N. Wright St. was built in 1907, where he lived for three years until his divorce.
Alva Jean Chastain lives right across from the mansion, and her family has a tie to the Kroehler’s.
“All my relatives in the early days, in the early 1900s when times were really tough, they all worked for Kroehler. Pete Kroehler gave them jobs,” said Chastain.
Little Friends and the Kroehler Mansion
The Historic Preservation Commission will hear their case on Thursday.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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