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Save Old Nichols group prepares for Historic Preservation Commission


Above / Architect Christopher B. McCoy, AIA – McCoy Architects LLC, Lexington, Kentucky, provided renderings of what the property where Old Nichols Library stands could look like with a structure that complements the existing building at 110 S. Washington. After folks saw the rendering at the open house, imaginations began to come up with all sorts of ideas to present to the developer to re-purpose the historic structure built in 1898 and the property next to it.

UPDATE, Aug. 30, 2017The following information was received after PN went to press for September: According to the Save Old Nichols campaign and now the City Manager’s Memorandum Aug. 31, 2017, the attorney for the developer of 110 S. Washington requested on Aug. 25, 2017, that their landmark discussion be continued from the Sept. 5 to Sept. 19 City Council meeting and additionally that their Planning and Zoning Commission case be continued from Sept. 6 to Oct. 4, 2017.  The developer is seeking additional time to secure co-counsel and to prepare. 

UPDATE, Aug. 23, 2017 / Landmark designation for Old Nichols heads to City Council for consideration and approval after Historic Preservation Commission recommendation at its meeting on Aug. 22.

After much testimony from the property owner, the petitioners and the public, as well as thoughtful deliberation about criteria for designation from members of the Historic Preservation Commission, the vote was 5-1 for recommending Old Nichols Library as a local historic landmark at 110 S. Washington Street in downtown Naperville. The decision now will go before the Naperville City Council.

According to the agenda provided at the meeting, “If approved by City Council, the landmark designation would provide local historic preservation protections to the property and would require issuance of a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) prior to certain exterior building modifications or demolition from occurring. It should be emphasized that the landmark designation only provides protection for the exterior facade as visible from the right-of-way.”

Members of the Naperville Historic Preservation Commission

Becky Anderson, Councilwoman (non-voting member)**
Kevin Peterson, Chair, Resident at Large (expected to recuse himself)
Mark V. Urda, District Owner/Resident**
Phillip Garrison, District Owner/Resident**
John Noel, District Owner/Resident**
Emily Erickson Ory, Resident at Large
Lauren Mayor, Resident at Large
Carrie Doyle, Resident at Large**
Christopher Jacks, Resident at Large**
Kamala Martinez, PZC Representative**
Debbie Grinnell, Naperville Heritage Society Representative (non-voting member)**
** In attendance, Aug. 22, 2017  ** Voted not to recommend landmark status

Original Post, Aug. 15, 2017 / The Save Old Nichols Library group, organized in May by preservation enthusiasts Barbara Hower and Charlie Wilkins, held an open house Monday evening in the Community Room in the current Nichols Library, located at 200 W. Jefferson. Their aim is to heighten awareness about the recent sale of the property, stop a plan to demolish the significant structure built in 1898 to make way for new mixed-use development, and promote ways to help protect the historic building as a local landmark.

During the 90-minute open house, folks in attendance—pro, con and on the fence— learned about the existing covenants on the structure and why others are climbing on the band wagon to preserve the library building bequeathed in 1895 for $10,000 to the City of Naperville when James L. Nichols died at age 45. Nichols, a German immigrant, was educated at North Central College where he also taught, and later became a local businessman whose innovative ideas, published works and philanthropy put Naperville on the map.

U. S. Geological Survey Medallions are placed to measure elevation above the sea.

Furthermore, the historic treasure along the gateway to downtown was designed by M.E. Bell, a renowned American architect originally from Pennsylvania who served from 1883 to 1886 as Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department.

Plus, in 1905 the U.S. Geological Survey identified Old Nichols as a structure that would never be moved or altered. A medallion affixed to the northwest corner of the building marks the spot where Naperville is exactly 693 feet above sea level. Disturbing the “benchmark” is unlawful and subject to a fine.

“Nichols has a Geological Survey Medallion?” asked State Rep. Grant Wehrli when he saw the image. “I take photos of geological survey medallions whenever my boys and I find them in our travels,” added the Naperville native. “I had no idea we had one here in Naperville.”

Some folks might jest volumes could be written about Nichols and Bell, enough to fill a library; the storied legacies of the two 19th-century men are that good.

Historical Preservation Commission Meeting / 7PM Tues., Aug. 22

The open house featuring informative tabletop displays was arranged to enlighten the public prior to next week’s Historic Preservation Commission Meeting, a time that could determine the fate of the 119-year-old building in “good to serviceable” condition that a developer plans to tear down and replace with a 4-story building to house 80,000 square feet of retail, offices and condominiums.

PHOTO GALLERY / Save Old Nichols Open House

[shareprints gallery_id=”76984″ gallery_type=”squares” gallery_position=”pos_center” gallery_width=”width_100″ image_size=”small” image_padding=”0″ theme=”dark” image_hover=”false” lightbox_type=”slide” titles=”true” captions=”true” descriptions=”true” comments=”true” sharing=”true”]The Historic Preservation Commission meets at 7PM, Tues., Aug. 22, in the Naperville Municipal Center, 400 S. Eagle Street. The public is welcome to attend.

The Save Old Nichols Library group expressed great appreciation to everyone who wants to learn more about preserving this important landmark for the future in the heart of downtown Naperville.

Save Old Nichols Open House By the Numbers

110 Visitors Attended Save Old Nichols Open House 

10 Elected Officials, including Mayor Steve Chirico, Attended

67 Names on Sign-Up Sheets for Yard Signs

224 ‘Save Old Nichols’ Buttons Taken by Supporters at Open House

105 Foam Peanut Votes Collected in Bins for Pre-Suggested Re-purposes

The idea for a restaurant received 39 peanuts; tourism center, 34; Naperville Library Administrative Offices, 19; and small business Incubator, 13.

32 Post-It Note ‘Suggested Uses’ Collected (Unedited) 

– Visitor center!!

– Visitor bureau

– Music & art center

– Park District classes

– Naperville Museum

– Art Center classes

-Art School

-Museum & banquet facility

-Banquet hall

-Lecture/performance hall

– Museum

– Tavern On The Green

– Place for Weddings

– New local brewery with brew tours – small distributor

– Brew classes and restaurantBanquet hall for weddings looking for a smaller hip local (sic) but w/History

– I second the brewery idea!

 – If library cannot stay at current site the city should get involved in relocation to another parcel of land that the City already owns

– Naper Settlement extension

– Fine Art center w/venue space for weddings etc.

– Fine Arts Center

– Fine Arts Center – musicians – writers –artists –workshop & performance

– Cultural & Central Park Display/Meeting Facility

– “If you destroy their history and destroy their ACHIEVEMENTS and it’s as if they never EXISTED.” -George Stout, Art Conservationist, specialist & museum director for 1945

– Nichols Library is a cultural amenity.  It’s history and value to this community should not be swept aside. Enhance it for multiple uses. –Brand Bobosky

– Tourism Center

– Info Center

– Meeting rooms (rental)

– Culinary & Hospitality School with Restaurant

– James Nichols, Caroline Martin-Mitchell, Win & Irene Knoch / GENEROUS DONORS of land for the vision, hope for the PUBLIC GOOD!


– Commit to an INTEGRATED DOWNTOWN supporting green space, commerce, residential & social interaction

15 Memories Collected during Open House Regarding Old Nichols Library

Organizers remind the community that memories are fun to share. And, of course, one memory conjures up another one that makes everybody feel good.

That said, the Save Old Nichols Library initiative intends to stick to facts such as the covenant, the assessment condition report, projected costs, financing and “all the possible uses for the building that should/could appease both sides,” noted Hower.

– I remember taking my children there.  You could go if you lived in Downers Grove or Woodridge.

– I remember going in.  The front desk was right there and someone would greet you.

– Whenever I was missing, they would say, ‘She’s probably at the library!’

– They ought to preserve it.  It is a historic building.

– I’m a native Napervillian.  I have fond memories of Old Nichols Library as a child. I spent many afternoons in the children’s section choosing the perfect books.  –Lisa Eales

– I put that roof on the library and I built the gazebo in Central Park.

– The library was built in 1898 during the presidency of J McKinley.  A person who was only 64 years old in 1898 could have been born in 1834 – the year Naperville was incorporated.  This means Nichols Library’s threshold has been crossed by the townsfolk of Naperville all the way back to its founding. No other building can claim that honor.

– It keeps Naperville quaint.

– The Nichols Library was a frequent study site for students from SS Peter and Paul Elementary-Junior High Schools./I am in the class of 1961, Carolyn (Lauing) Finzer…its central location on Washington Street made it an easy walk across Central Park. The historic building is in the heart of our business district…Save It!

– It was a treat to come in to town on Saturdays from our house in the country.  I always stopped at Nichols!  – Holly Yeates

– When I attended North Central College in 1950-51 I faithfully visited Nichols Library. – Norma Yackley Yeates

– I remember the children’s library was in a closet at the southeast corner of the library in the ‘50s. I think I read every book in it. I also remember when the addition was added.  The library moved to the old telephone exchange on Webster.

– My family were the ‘earlier’ transplants in 1978 – population about 30,000? Nichols was perfect at the time.  We loved the park, band concerts, movies in the summer. This building is part of Naperville’s DNA. Enough has been offered up to the retail gods.  Please keep this building.  It means too much to the long-time residents!

– My first library card – 1958! Going there to do homework in the 1950’s!

– I fondly remember heading to the library after swimming at the ‘Y’ in the 1960’s. The librarian used to ‘shoosh’ me all the time.  She was quite strict, but on occasion forgave my ‘past due’ fines. She also let me take out more than the 3 book limit.  I remember a cardboard card with rounded edges & a metal stamped section in the middle.  Most of all, I remember the wonderful grandfather’s clock with the cow that jumped over the moon. A precious place indeed and worthy of saving.

229 Dollars Donated in Big Jug during Open House to Show Support

Above / For more images of Old Nichols Library on Washington Street, visit www.saveoldnicholslibrary.org.

4 Basic Architectural Talking Points about the Developer’s Proposal 

At right / The proposed 4-story development features the facade of the Old Nichols Library in the center of an architect’s rendering. (This rendering is one of two presented by the developer for public consideration.)

In addition to the rendering at the top of this post, architect McCoy provided a mock-up of the design with a red line drawing indicating the actual comparative size of Old Nichols as well as his professional opinion:

– The existing library is totally demolished and only a portion of the facade is recreated on the new building. This is not preservation in any form.

– The proposed Front Elevation reconstruction does not match the existing Library. The windows are significantly different and the proportions and asymmetry of the existing structure are lost.

– The proposal is dramatically larger and significantly more massive than the old library. It sits much closer to the street, losing the old library’s valuable frontage and green space setback. It will cut off much more daylight to the adjacent street, park access way along the left side, as well as daylight in the park. It will significantly impact the pedestrian views, look, and feel of the immediate environment.

– The proposal does not address the grade change existing presently on the site. The front steps, stone base of the existing building, and watertable are all lost in the proposed development.  Part of the architectural character of the old library is that it sits on a stone base and watertable as many other old historic structures.

Find out more about Save Old Nichols Campaign

For more information, visit the Save Old Nichols Library website that is also linked to more than a thousand comments in support of finding a way to work with the property owner to fund, restore and re-purpose the current structure for perpetuity.

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PN Editor
PN Editor
An editor is someone who prepares content for publishing. It entered English, the American Language, via French. Its modern sense for newspapers has been around since about 1800.