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Friday, September 29, 2023

Sunset after the rain brings to light beauty of Old Nichols and Veterans’ Valor


Above / The Old Nichols Library building glistens in the sunset on October 7, 2017. (Photo by Gail Diedrichsen) 

On September 22, the Old Nichols Library building marked its 119th year as the attraction at 110 S. Washington Street along the northern gateway into downtown Naperville.

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After a rainy afternoon two weeks later, the sun set, illuminating the brilliance of James L. Nichols and his story that built the library for all the citizens of Naperville with a $10,000 bequeath upon his death in 1895.

What’s more, limestone from a Naperville quarry glistens on the creation by architect M.E. Bell in Richardsonian Romanesque style, begun in 1897.

In 2010, Old Nichols was included in a downtown survey with other non-commercial structures located along Washington Street north of Van Buren Avenue.

The structures were identified for their unique features— and the importance of preserving those features that contribute to the historic character of downtown. Along with Old Nichols, the other noteworthy buildings from the 2010 survey were the Post Office building (now Naperville Bank and Trust) at 5 S. Washington Street, the former German Evangelical People’s Church (now Naperville Woman’s Club) at 14 S. Washington Street, and the YMCA building at 36 S. Washington Street.

Considering that the City Council voted in favor of landmarking the historic structure of significance on September 19, 2017, many residents have been wondering “What’s next for Old Nichols?”

Many others are eager to put heads together with adaptive ideas, hopeful the developer and property owner is willing to welcome community engagement aimed at positive solutions to preserve and re-purpose Old Nichols for his benefit and the prosperity of Naperville.

Veterans’ Valor near Old Nichols

Back in 2006, sculpture and visual artist Shirley McWorter-Moss arrived at the entrance to Central Park along with several large wooden crates that contained five bronze likenesses of five Naperville Veterans who had served in World War II.

That afternoon, McWorter-Moss attracted many curious onlookers while she directed the careful unpacking and placement of each image as it was set into place along Washington Street at Van Buren, soon to be known as the 28th work of art in the Century Walk tour titled “Veterans’ Valor.”

According to the Century Walk description on the plaque in front of the sculpture, “The heroism of Naperville’s many veterans is reflected in the unusual story of five men who grew up in this small town, attended Naperville High School, and served in World War II in various branches of the armed forces. Fortunately, they all returned home having earned high military honors. Four received the Silver Star and one received the distinguished flying cross.

“These five men (left to right) Army 1st Lt. Al Rubin, Platoon Commander; Army Staff Sgt. Leo Kuefler, Tank Commander; Army Air Corps Cpt. Vinnie Mazza, B-24 Pilot; Navy Lt. Bob Wehrli, Pt. Boat Commander; and Marine Corps 1st Lt. Don Darfler, Fighter Pilot – represent the patriotism and sacrifices of numerous local men and women who have served our country and fought for freedom around the globe.”

‘College, Community and Country’

FYI: In 2001, Shirley McWorter-Moss created the Century Walk sculpture of football player and World War II veteran William Shatzer II, located in the Plaza between Merner Fieldhouse and Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium at North Central College.

That piece of art is featured in the October 2017 print edition of Positively Naperville with a promotion for Century Walk on page 29.

Photos by Gail Diedrichsen / Story by PN

ICYMI: In addition to Old Nichols, the Truitt House, 48 E. Jefferson Ave. (Across from Quigley’s Irish Pub in the Jefferson HIll Shops mansion); Thomas Clow House, 5212 Book Road; and Naperville Woman’s Club, 14 S. Washington St., have been recognized as Naperville historic landmarks.


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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.


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