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Friday, April 19, 2024

Note 2024 Presidents Day with some local facts and trivia


Above / The street named for President George Washington runs north to south in Naperville. Here Washington Street crosses Jefferson Avenue in the heart of downtown. From now through October, Washington Street is undergoing Phase Two of a new streetscape project.

The city’s most important thoroughfare through downtown Naperville crosses under the BNSF railway tracks near Fifth Avenue and over bridges of the West Branch of the DuPage River. 

(Picture Postcard Circa 1940, PN File)

In addition to vehicular traffic, many small businesses, schools, churches and more dot the landscape along busy Washington Street. One business, Beidelman Furniture, was established in 1861 on the corner of Washington Street and Jackson Avenue, and is among the oldest ongoing businesses in the suburbs. 

Inspired to update what we’ve posted in the past about no school on Presidents Day, a report in the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 17, 2023, suggested that “kids lose something when schools aren’t named after Lincoln and Washington.”

To its credit, Naperville Community Unit School District 203 has recognized George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, and John F. Kennedy by naming all five of its junior high schools to honor U.S. Presidents. (Kennedy Jr. High School is located in Lisle.)

We also recalled a story six years ago by then-PN columnist and local historian Bryan Ogg. Appropriately known as the “History Detective,” Ogg also wrote Naperville: A Brief History, published by The History Press in 2018. Copies of his book remain available at the Walgreens located on Rickert at Sequoia.

To enhance a story about Abraham Lincoln, Ogg provided this 1939 photo of the original Pre-Emption House when it was located at Chicago Avenue and Main Street in downtown Naperville. (Where Sullivan’s Steakhouse is now.) Today the re-creation of the Pre-Emption stands at Webster and Aurora Avenue, serving as the gateway to Naper Settlement, the city’s outdoor history museum.

(1939 photo courtesy Naper Settlement)

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 Ogg, sometime between 1931 and 1946 local lore began circulating that Lincoln spoke on the porch of the Pre-Emption House. To this day, evidence of truth in that legend has not been proven as fact.

From 15,000 biographies to Lincoln Logs to ‘Laughing Lincoln’

Moving right along, last Monday, Feb. 12, was the 215th 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. Abe Lincoln’s image is on the $5 bill. And what other U.S. President was named in a popular learning toy for children? Remember Lincoln Logs? 

Very 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, he 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. He was assassinated in 1865.

The portrayal of Abraham Lincoln was among the memorable attractions during Naper Settlement’s reenactment of Civil War Days every May. After a 37-year run, Civil War Days ended in 2019. (PN File Photo)

For 37 years until 2019, Civil War Days was a historical event reenacted at Naper Settlement with a costumed interpreter portraying Abe Lincoln. Naper Settlement’s offices and site will be closed on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, for Presidents Day. The museum will resume normal operations on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

Yet, the bronze sculpture of “Laughing Lincoln” in Naperville’s Central Park welcomes guests to sit down for a good joke every day.

In Naperville’s Central Park, a Century Walk sculpture titled “Laughing Lincoln” is an image where a visitor enjoyed having photos taken up close and personal for posterity. (PN File Photo 2022)

Click here to a photo gallery of images of many familiar faces taken during “Laughing Lincoln” Dedication Day for Century Walk in December 2018. The dedication was coordinated with the 200th anniversary of Illinois’ becoming the 21st State of the Union that occurred on Dec. 3, 2018.

Remember 2024 Presidents Day on February 19

In a nutshell, Presidents Day is celebrated annually on the third Monday in February, giving local schools. U.S. Stock Markets and some government agencies a three-day weekend. For 2024, Presidents Day is Mon. Feb. 19. Remember! No mail delivery today.

(Note: In Naperville, because of school closures on the holiday, School District 203 will hold its board meeting, typically held on the third Monday, at 7PM Tues., Feb. 22, 2024, at the District Administration Center, 203 W. Hillside Road. Note also: the next Regular Meeting of the Board of Education in School District 204 will begin at 7PM Mon., Feb. 26, 2024, at 780 Shoreline Dr., Aurora, IL.

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, 1732.

Prior to 1968, the holiday for George Washington was held on February 22 in many states.

George Washington’s image is on the one dollar bill.

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 in 1799.

Four U.S. Presidents born in February

Four U.S. Presidents were born in February, even though Lincoln and Washington are the two statesmen 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, had been the oldest of any president to win election. On his 32nd day in office, he died of what was believed to be pneumonia. Harrison 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 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, followed in 1984 with a land side victory, serving two terms as the 40th Commander in Chief. Reagan died in 2004.

Take a stroll along Washington Street, just past Jefferson Avenue and before Jackson Avenue, and look up at the roof tops. Note parapet walls and design details at 216 S. Washington that display this city’s rich history from the 18th century. And be mindful that several downtown Naperville streets are named to honor U.S. Presidents. (PN File Photo)

A few factoids for Presidents Day in 2024

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. 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 and never while in office. While campaigning 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

Find friendly fox squirrels along the brick path near the Riverwalk Amphitheater, located near the corner of Jackson Avenue and Eagle Street. Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the U.S. from 1829 to 1837.

Stroll the Naperville Riverwalk where furry friends scurry and ducks and geese hurry across the winding brick path.

Though closed on Presidents Day, other times venture over to Naper Settlement where local history comes alive throughout the 12-acre village.

Book tickets at the theater venues and explore the art galleries at North Central College. Think dinner and the show. Make reservations for special occasions.

Experience history. Shop locally. Keep moving forward. Look up. 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 

George Washington’s Egg Nog (Complete with Recipe!)

Remember Constitution Week every September

Kindness in Naperville was influenced by George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior

Revolutionary War Patriot buried in NapervilleCemetery sailed with 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?

1. George Washington 1789–1797 (Naperville street and junior high bear his name.)
In Naperville, Washington Junior High School is located at 201 N. Washington Street.
2. John Adams 1797–1801
3. Thomas Jefferson 1801–1809 (Naperville street and junior high bear his name.)
4. James Madison 1809–1817 (Naperville junior high bears his name.)
5. James Monroe 1817–1825
6. John Quincy Adams 1825–1829
7. Andrew Jackson  1829–1837  (Captain Joseph Naper family arrives to establish Naperville.)
8. Martin Van Buren  1837–1841 (Naperville street bears his name.)
9. William Henry Harrison 1841
10. John Tyler 1841–1845
11. James Polk 1845–1849
12. Zachary Taylor 1849–1850
13. Millard Fillmore 1850–1853
14. Franklin Pierce 1853–1857
15. James Buchanan 1857–1861
16. Abraham Lincoln 1861–1865 (Naperville junior high bears his name.)
17. Andrew Johnson 1865–1869
18. Ulysses S. Grant 1869–1877 (Founded in 1861 in Plainfield, North Central College relocates to Naperville in 1870.)
19. Rutherford B. Hayes 1877–1881
20. James Garfield 1881
21. Chester Arthur 1881–1885
22. Grover Cleveland 1885–1889 (First Presidency)*
23. Benjamin Harrison 1889–1893
24. Grover Cleveland 1893–1897 (Second Presidency)*
25. William McKinley 1897–1901
26. Theodore Roosevelt 1901–1909
27. William H. Taft 1909–1913
28. Woodrow Wilson 1913–1921
29. Warren Harding 1921–1923
30. Calvin Coolidge 1923–1929
31. Herbert Hoover 1929–1933 (City commemorates 100 years with Centennial Beach.)
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933–1945
33. Harry S. Truman 1945–1953
34. Dwight Eisenhower 1953–1961 (On Nov. 21, 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. visited North Central College.)
35. John F. Kennedy 1961–1963 (Naperville junior high bears his name.)
36. Lyndon Johnson 1963–1969
37. Richard Nixon 1969–1974 (Naperville Heritage Society/Naper Settlement established.)
38. Gerald Ford 1974–1977
39. Jimmy Carter 1977–1981 (For frame of reference, the Riverwalk was first conceived as a local public-private partnership without state and federal dollars in the late 1970s. / As this post was being created, The Carter Center released news on Feb. 18, 2024, that the former President, age 99, marked one year since he decided to spend his remaining time at home with his family and receive hospice care instead of additional medical intervention. The Carter family expressed gratitude for concern shown by his many admirers.) 
40. Ronald Reagan 1981–1989 (Naperville’s sesquicentennial anniversary was celebrated on Labor Day, Sept. 7, 1981, during the dedication of Naperville Riverwalk.)
41. George H. W. Bush 1989–1993
42. William J. Clinton 1993–2001 (Naperville commemorates new Millennium with Moser Tower / DuPage Children’s Museum comes to Naperville.)
43. George W. Bush 2001–2009 (Positively Naperville was launched on Sept. 1, 2001.)
44. Barack Obama 2009–2017 
45. Donald J. Trump 2017–2021
46. Joe Biden 2021-present
*Note that while the United States has had 46 presidencies, the nation has been served by 45 men. Grover Cleveland is the only individual to have served two nonconsecutive terms as president. Presidents listed in bold are still alive.
We found lots of fun facts on a set of 43 “Presidential Flash Cards” featuring picture cards published in 2001. —PN

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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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