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Naperville
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Naper Settlement 50 years young

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By Abbey Bobzin
Special to PN for Naper Settlement

What was once a dozen residents fighting to save a local church has blossomed into five decades of dedication, preservation, and community building. The Naperville Heritage Society’s 50th anniversary is more than a milestone; it is a testament to the community’s devotion to this great City and its history. The institution is not only dedicated to preserving and remembering our past, but focused on growing and creating a bright future.

Caroline Martin Mitchell’s donation of her family’s Victorian mansion and surrounding 212 acres of land to the City of Naperville laid the groundwork for the Naperville Heritage Society (NHS). In the same vein that Joseph Naper rallied to make roots here, so did Jane Sindt and the founding members of the Society. Upon relocating St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1969, the determined group of residents that fought for the building’s preservation formed as an official nonprofit organization. Because of their passion, determination, and courage, the City of Naperville is thriving today.

The St. John’s Episcopal Church was relocated to the grounds of Naper Settlement in 1970.

“I am so proud to lead this impressive institution and to be a recipient of the many fruits it has given our city,” said NHS president and CEO Rena Tamayo-Calabrese. “From preservation of our collective story to gathering our community and providing a strong sense of identity, the Naperville Heritage Society has been a present part of all our lives and has greatly contributed to knowing who we are as a City and community. I look forward to welcoming all of you into our magical place of wonder and fun.”

Over the years, this volunteer group worked to save buildings throughout Naperville, holding community events like Joe Naper Days and the Antiques Show to raise funds. After relocating many buildings like the Daniels House, Paw Paw Post Office, Murray Law Office, and more; the Naperville Heritage Society partnered with the City of Naperville to administer its museum, Naper Settlement, in 1979.

Providing dynamic learning for people of all ages, Naper Settlement has grown into a 13-acre award-winning, twice nationally-accredited museum by the American Alliance of Museums — the only nationally-accredited outdoor history museum in Illinois.

A dozen volunteers in 1979 has expanded into a full-time staff, nearly 4,000 volunteers annually, and 382,000 annual visitors experiencing all that Naper Settlement has to offer.

With an 80,000-piece collection including contemporary artifacts and a recipient of 26 grants in education, preservation, and exhibits over the past ten years, the Heritage Society has positioned Naper Settlement as a museum full of immersive experiences surrounding our community experiences for all to explore.

From innovative exhibits and interactive museum tours to hands-on programming and beloved community events, the Naperville Heritage Society is part of Naperville’s story, writing a new chapter every year. Their story is universal, with a purpose much bigger than they are as they aim to write a narrative that enacts positive change, creates a strong sense of community, inspires engagement and leadership, and spreads knowledge.

As the Naperville Heritage Society turns 50, its members honor their past and work toward a bright and thriving future, one that will shine more brilliant than they could have ever imagined in 1969.


Editor’s Note / The July print edition of Positively Naperville, available at 25 local business locations, also features stories about weddings that began in 1972 in the Century Memorial Chapel, Bev Frier’s early attempt to purchase the church for use as a arts center as well as this month’s special events at the city’s outdoor history museum. When those stories are posted in rotation on this website, they’ll be linked here, too. Thanks for reading.

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Naper Settlement
Naper Settlementhttp://www.napersettlement.org/
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 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 napersettlement.com or call (630) 420-6010.

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