Birthday Bash

June 2019 View more

Naperville Heritage Society founder Jane Sindt

By Christie Willhite

For 50 years, Naper Settlement has been telling the stories that create Naperville’s history. And this year, in honor of the milestone, it’s taking the opportunity to celebrate its beginnings and its place in the community.

Visitors will find special celebrations along with the familiar lineup of exhibits, concerts, and events all emphasizing connections to 1969, the year a group of civic-minded residents came together as the Naperville Heritage Society to save St. John’s Episcopal Church from demolition and to move it to what is now Naper Settlement (above).

“Naperville has been a pretty progressive town with stories that really connect to the nation’s history,” says John Koranda, a native son who has been chairman of the Naperville Heritage Society’s board of directors for the last three years. “There is a lot to be celebrated here, and a lot of people to be acknowledged for their contributions.”

Those historical connections will be on display at the annual Hometown Picnic on June 9 that will feature a walk-through history, weaving local stories with a national perspective while highlighting the heritage society and the settlement, says communications coordinator Abbey Bobzin.

“Naperville’s history is America’s history,” she adds.

The Naper Nights concert series will feature a lineup that celebrates the Weed Ladies volunteer group in June, the voices of women in rock and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing in July, and Woodstock in August.

A Wedding Celebration is in the works to honor those married in Century Memorial Chapel, as the St. John’s Church building is now known. Thousands of couples have said their “I dos” in the chapel, and they’re invited to renew their vows and enjoy photo opportunities on July 14, Bobzin says.

The anniversary celebration also likely will shape both Oktoberfest and All Hallows Eve in October, though plans have not yet been finalized.

From its beginning, Naper Settlement was intended to be more than a museum. Caroline Martin Mitchell, whose family owned the property and surrounding land, donated it for public use with the caveat that her family home and orchards be used as a museum and gathering place for her community, says Macarena Tamayo-Calabrese, the settlement’s president and CEO.

“With a commitment to the community and a focus to the future, our mission is to deliver a thriving campus of lifelong-learning, discovery, and fun for all people and of all ages,” she says. “We are here to tell the story of one community and the story of America as it happened here.”

Anniversary Celebrations

Naper Settlement is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Naperville Heritage Society with special events and tie-ins to favorite activities at its museum village (523 S. Webster St., Naperville). Naperville residents and members receive free admission.

Hometown Picnic

Sunday, June 9, 1–4 p.m. Vintage baseball, pie eating, music, games

Wedding Celebration

Sunday, July 14, 1–4 p.m. Vow renewal, refreshments, and photo opportunities for couples married in Century Memorial Chapel

Naper Nights

Community Concert Series, Saturdays and Sundays June 14 & 15, July 19 & 20, August 16 & 17. Various times; see for schedule.

Photo courtesy Naper Settlement