Above / In Naperville, Illinois, the street named for President George Washington runs north to south. The city’s most important thoroughfare crosses under the BNSF railway tracks near Fifth Avenue and over bridges of the West Branch of the DuPage River north to south. In addition to vehicular traffic, many small businesses, schools, churches, private homes and Edward Hospital dot the landscape along busy Washington Street. In the heart of downtown Naperville, Jefferson Avenue crosses Washington, east to west. George Washington served as the first President of the United States. Thomas Jefferson served as this nation’s third President beginning in 1801.
Inspired to update what we’ve posted in the past about Presidents’ Day, we recalled a PN story from February 2013 that had enlightened us about the the proper and healthful way to feed our wild feathered friends and to promote February as National Wild Bird Feeding Month.
Long story short, back in 1994, Bill Clinton had just begun serving his first of two terms as President of the United States. On February 23, 1994, Illinois Congressman John Edward Porter from Evanston had proclaimed February as “National Wild Bird Feeding Month.” Mindful that the cardinal is the Illinois State Bird and seen year round feeding in our backyard, the typical bird weighs two ounces and that’s less than nine nickels!
Cardinals are attracted to feeders filled with cracked corn, sunflower seeds, mealworms, chopped peanuts, safflower and suet. Fresh water is important, so place bird baths in the sunshine and refill regularly with fresh water.
Remember 2022 Presidents’ Day on February 21
In a nutshell, Presidents’ Day is celebrated annually on the third Monday in February, giving local schools, U.S. Stock Markets, USPS employees (ie., no mail delivery) and some government agencies a three-day weekend. For 2022, Presidents’ Day is Mon. Feb. 21, sandwiched between Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras, a.k.a. Fat Tuesday.
Officially established in 1968 to honor the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the holiday law was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and the third-Monday date for Presidents’ Day was selected since it coincides closest with Washington’s birth date on February 22.
Folks who were school children prior to 1968 likely recall when the holiday was held on February 22 in many states.
Certainly, most folks have learned and recognize Washington as the first U.S. President. He’s the face on the one dollar bill. Born in Virginia in 1732, Washington served against the French in the Seven Years War. When conflict between the British government and the Americans over taxation came to a head, Washington led as a successful general, leading troops to victory at Yorktown, Pennsylvania, in 1781, essentially ending the war. In 1787, Washington presided over the Philadelphia Convention of 39 men, aiming to formulate the U.S. Constitution. He served as President, limiting himself to two terms from 1789 to 1797. Washington died at age 67 in 1799.
Throughout the United States, the most common shared street name with a president’s name is, not surprisingly, Washington.
Two more notes about currency: A likeness of Abraham Lincoln is featured on both the Lincoln Cent and the $5 bill.
Lincoln connections to the Pre-Emption House, built in 1821
Note the image of Honest Abe on the large sign over the door that proclaims, “One of Abraham Lincoln’s Favorite Stops Built in 1831. From the door above, he spoke to our forefathers.”
According to local historian Bryan Ogg, sometime between 1931 and 1946 local lore began circulating that Lincoln had spoken on the porch of the Pre-Emption House. To this day, no evidence of truth in that legend has been proven as fact, Ogg noted.
From 15,000 biographies to Lincoln Logs
Moving right along, February 12, 2022, was the 213th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
According to literary sources, more books, as many as 15,000, have been written about Lincoln than any other American. And what other U.S. President was named in a popular learning toy for children? Remember Lincoln Logs?
Briefly profiled here, Lincoln was born in Kentucky and lived in Indiana prior to moving to Illinois where he became a lawyer. From 1834 to 1849, he served in and out of politics in Springfield and Washington, D. C., returning to politics in 1854. He was a leader of the Republican Party which was established in 1856 to oppose slavery.
In 1861, Lincoln began his first term as the 16th U.S. President, the same year the Confederate States proposed to withdraw from the Union, and the Civil War broke out. Lincoln is credited for the memorable phrase “Government of the people, by the people and for the people,” an excerpt from his Gettysburg Address in 1863.
At age 56, Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.
‘Laughing Lincoln’ in Central Park
Since December 2018 when Illinois was celebrating its bicentennial year, a life-size bronze sculpture of Abraham Lincoln as a young man and jovial storyteller has been sitting on a bench in Central Park.
Conceived in 2015 after the death of former Naperville City Council member and Central Park advocate Don Wehrli, and in partnership with the Century Walk Corporation, the Wehrli family selected artist David Alan Clark to complete a cast-bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln at age 30, a time when he worked as a lawyer and Illinois state legislator.
Local lore attests that Lincoln could have helped establish Central Park as the DuPage County seat and site of the county’s first courthouse. In 1839, Naperville town founder Joseph Naper, then a state legislator along with Lincoln, was pushing to create DuPage County out of nine townships in Cook County, and 30-year-old Lincoln voted against his party to help make that happen. Three years earlier, Naper had voted against his party to support Lincoln’s initiative to move the state capitol from Vandalia to Springfield, so some say the votes were a negotiated swap.
Laughing Lincoln in Central Park marks the 50th location for Century Walk, a public art collection now with 52 locations. Note also that in 2005, artist Barton Gunderson painted The Great Concerto, a Century Walk mural honoring the Naperville Municipal Band with a history dating back to 1859. (In 1859, James Buchanan, was serving as the 15th President of the U.S.) The mural graces the stage door of the Community Concert Center in Central Park.
Four School District 203 junior high schools honor U.S. Presidents
School District 203 has recognized John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison and George Washington by naming all four of its junior high schools to honor U.S. Presidents. (Kennedy Jr. High School is located in Lisle.)
Four U.S. Presidents born in February
Four U.S. Presidents were born in February, even though Lincoln and Washington are the original two mentioned to honor on Presidents’ Day. In addition to Washington and Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and William Henry Harrison share this birthday month.
Born in Virginia on Feb. 9, 1773, William Henry Harrison served as an American military officer and politician prior to being elected the ninth President of the U.S., beginning in 1841. At the time, Harrison, age 68, was the oldest of any president to win election. On his 32nd day in office, he died of what was believed to be pneumonia. Harrison also is distinguished for serving the shortest tenure in U.S. Presidential history.
More than a century later on February 6, 1911, Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, located in Whiteside County, in northern Illinois. Reagan was renowned as a TV actor and movie star prior to his election as Governor of California in 1967. In 1980, Reagan won a Republican presidency at age 69, followed in 1984 with a landside victory, serving two terms as the 40th Commander in Chief. Reagan died in 2004.
Presidents Day in 2022
Though some folks think that honoring all U.S. Presidents on Presidents’ Day diminishes the stature of Washington and Lincoln, most Americans are now OK with a federal holiday to recognize all 46 U.S. presidencies from 1789 to 2022. To date, 45 different individuals have served as president. Grover Cleveland is distinguished as having been the only individual elected to two nonconsecutive terms (March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889 and March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897) near the end of the 19th century.
To our knowledge, only George W. Bush and Barack Obama have visited Naperville during this millennium. Both men, however, visited prior to becoming President. While running for President, Bush spoke at Naperville North High School in 2000 just prior to the Jaycees Labor Day Parade. Shortly after his election to serve in the U.S. Senate, Senator Obama gave a speech in 2005 in Pfeiffer Hall at North Central College.
Look up and all around for signs of history
Check out plaques along the path that help tell the story of the community that took on the name of Captain Joseph Naperville back in 1831. At that time, Andrew Jackson was serving as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837; ergo, Jackson Avenue.
Stroll the Naperville Riverwalk, then venture over to Naper Settlement where local history comes alive throughout the 12-acre village begun in 1969. (For frame of reference, the Riverwalk was first conceived as a local public-private partnership without state and federal dollars in the late 1970s when Jimmy Carter was President. On Naperville’s sesquicentennial anniversary, celebrated on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 1981, the Naperville Riverwalk was dedicated when Ronald Reagan served as President.)
Enjoy learning from history—the good, the bad and the imperfect.
Shop, dine and bank locally. Keep moving throughout downtown Naperville along Main Street where it intersects with Jefferson and Van Buren streets. Look up, even when the ground is covered with snow. On every Presidents’ Day, be mindful that winter is more than half way to springtime. Thanks for reading!
Editor’s Note / Some of the dates and facts were found in the “everyday handbook,” Dictionary of American Politics.
Previous PN Posts related to President George Washington
Presidents Day! Naperville schools are closed.
Check out shops and eateries as well as other services and businesses located along Washington, Jefferson, Jackson and Van Buren streets!
Who was President when you were born?
Back in 1967 when Lyndon Johnson was President, PN’s publisher experienced summer employment with 99 other college students, serving the U.S. Department of Interior at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. Completed in 1941 under the direction of sculptor Gutzon Borglum, Mount Rushmore depicts four Presidents—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln—carved high in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Working alongside students from many walks of life while looking up at the sculpture every day and night for more than three months instilled a passion, respect and curiosity for history, culture, the arts and can-do spirit.
Finally, anyone who has ever visited Washington’s Headquarters in Morristown, New Jersey; historic sites featuring Lincoln’s childhood log cabins in Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois; or Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, is keenly aware not to judge back then by today’s social media standards. Times have changed.
Again, thanks for reading!
Editor’s Note #2 / We regret the late post. We failed to hit “Publish” before we began other things. —PN