Naperville was settled and founded in 1831, and is rich in history. It was incorporated in 1857 by Joseph Naper and he became President of the Board.
To preserve some of the history and showcase the development throughout the ages, Naper Settlement was created in 1969. It was founded through the City of Naperville management and is under operation through the Naperville Heritage Society.
It’s 12-acre property consists of an outdoor history museum and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The land is home to 30 historical buildings, many of which were moved to the current location from the surrounding Naperville area. They have been refurbished to fit their time periods, offering visitors a walk through the ages of Naperville all the way into the 20th century. Caroline Mitchell gave the land to the city of Naperville in 1936.
The museum is very hands-on and hosts numerous activities and exhibitions taking a deep dive into the history of Naperville, including the current WW2 exhibition. Museum educators in period costumes give tours and teach visitors about the area.
The Martin Mitchell Mansion
One of the most prominent buildings onsite is the Martin Mitchell Mansion, originally known as Pine Craig. Materials from Naperville businesses and stone from the Dupage River Quarries make up this 12-room house built by the local George Martin II. He was the son of a Scottish immigrant and used local resources to create an agricultural fortune for himself. The land continually expanded to around 1,000 acres, at which point Martin developed a limestone quarry along the river. This is why Naper Settlement exists so close to downtown Naperville and the Riverwalk. These stones were in high demand after the Great Chicago Fire destroyed a lot of buildings. His riches came from Naperville Tile and Brick Works where he made and sold over a million tiles and bricks.
This tile was primarily used in draining farms of their swamps, and he operated out of this house after it was built in 1883 and his family lived there until 1936. In 1975, the house was registered to the National Register of Historic places in 1975 and then underwent massive restoration from 2000-2003.
Activities and Programs
Civil War Days, a two-day reenactment, lasted from 1982-2019 and the settlement was turned into a large encampment where hundreds of actors and actresses partook in historical life and epic battles. Christkindlmarket and NaperLights, two events also canceled in 2019, may return in the future and we hope to see more events like them soon!
The settlement received public funding along with 47 other Illinois museums in 2014 from the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program.
Visiting the Naper Settlement
Visitors are allowed year-round and the local museum has winter hours starting November 1 through March 31.
You can see the settlement Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 4 pm.
Downtown walking tours are available as well; for a schedule click here.
Answering the Call: Naperville at War – 1941-1945
This exhibit will run April 12, 2021- January 2022 and it explores the local history of WW2 in Naperville and features the Massier Family Collection – stories of Japanese camp workers who came to work here as well as the history and significance of Kroehler to manufacture the war.
Come check out this and the rest of Naper Settlement and enrich yourself with the history of our local community! Click here for more information.