Editor’s Note: If you read www.positivelynaperville.com regularly, you know we’ve been following this Joe Naper sculpture and the teamwork that helped it happen with photos and stories posted here. Below is the “official” story released from the City of Naperviile and Naper Settlement following the ceremony on Aug. 23. The clear sky couldn’t have been bluer. Be sure to tour the self-guided Naper Homestead just west of downtown Naperville at the corner of Jefferson at Mill streets any day. Every time you visit, no matter what the season, you’ll likely discover something new.
First monument created to honor Naperville’s town founder
A sculpture of Naperville’s founder, Joseph Naper, was unveiled and dedicated Friday, Aug. 23 at the Naper Homestead, located on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street in Naperville, the place where the Napers first lived when they arrived in 1831.
Speakers included Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel, City Manager Doug Krieger, Naper Settlement President and CEO Mike Krol, Naperville Heritage Society Chairman Sally Pentecost, Master of the Euclid Lodge No. 65 Carl Crownhart, Century Walk President W. Brand Bobosky, artist Dick Locher, and artist and sculptor Jeff Adams of inBronze Foundry. Maria De Leon of U.S. Congressman Bill Foster’s office presented the City with a Congressional Record of the historic event.
“Our City believes in honoring its past and providing beauty to residents and visitors through public art,” Mayor Pradel said at the event. “These guiding principles have brought us here to celebrate Joseph Naper in a life-size way by dedicating a statue in his likeness.”
Naper Settlement President and CEO Mike Krol said, “This statue will no doubt be here for another 182 years and beyond. It serves to remind us of our City’s roots and how much we can accomplish if we pursue our dreams.”
The sculpture is based on a concept by nationally recognized, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, artist and Naperville resident Dick Locher. Locher created an image of Naperville’s town founder at the time that Naper’s Settlement was founded.
With the help of Naperville’s Century Walk public art initiative and its President W. Brand Bobosky, the Heritage Society selected artist Jeff Adams of inBronze Foundry in Mt. Morris, Ill., to sculpt the Locher design and cast it in bronze.
The sculpture traveled 80 miles on Aug. 9, from the Mt. Morris foundry where it was created, to Naperville. It was then installed on its pedestal and covered in burlap until the dedication ceremony on Aug. 23. Located near the figure of Naper is an additional bronze sculpture of a hewn tree stump with axe and surveyor’s tools, signifying the point of contact between the wilderness and the community.
Some “fast facts” about the scupture
- The statue is nine-and-a-half feet tall;
- The statue weighs 1,500 pounds and is composed of bronze;
- The corresponding tree stump and tools sculpture weighs 500 pounds and also is made of bronze;
- The statue features historically accurate clothing and tools;
- Naper’s image is recreated as a young 33-year-old surveyor and community founder.
As the founder of Naperville, Joseph Naper built a trading post, lumber and grist mills, homes and businesses and also dug quarries. In 1842, he surveyed, mapped and named the streets of his namesake settlement. Under his leadership, Napervillians established schools, religious congregations and organizations dedicated to social improvement.
Naper was elected to local, county and state government offices, including the state legislature. He was the first village president, and like many men of his era, he served in the military during the Blackhawk War and the Mexican War. When he died in 1862, Naper was respected for his generosity, intelligence and his bold and daring resolution in steering the community of Naperville from its humble beginnings to a prosperous future.
About Funding for the Artwork: Funding for the Naper sculpture was provided by the Illinois Public Museum Capital Grants Program, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois State Museum and the City of Naperville’s Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) Fund. The Joseph Naper sculpture is the 43rd piece in the Century Walk public art collection.
About Naper Settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society: Naper Settlement is a nationally accredited, award-winning outdoor museum set on 12 magnificent acres in the heart of Naperville, where history comes to play and the community comes to connect. The Naperville Heritage Society is the administrator of Naper Settlement. With a commitment to the community and a focus to the future, the mission of the Naperville Heritage Society is to collect, document, preserve and support the history of Naperville, Illinois, past and present. For more information, visit www.napersettlement.com or call (630) 420-6010.
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