Naper Settlement is what is known as a museum village, located in Naperville, Illinois, USA. Naperville is a mid-sized town about 30 miles west of Chicago. It is spread across 13 acres, and aims to recreate life in a 19th Century Midwestern town for its visitors, and so create a more interactive learning experience than a traditional history museum. Located in the heart of downtown Naperville, it is within easy walking distance of the Riverwalk, Centennial Beach, and local shops and eateries. The parking lot and entrance for Naper Settlement are located at the southeast corner of the property.
History of Naper Settlement
A local mansion had been bequeathed to the city back in 1936, and the building and the land were the foundation of Naper Settlement. In the late 1960s, the Naperville Heritage Society convinced the City Council to support the idea of a museum village. As suburban sprawl continued to overtake Naperville, many historic homes and stores were due to be plowed down for modern development. The Heritage Society arranged to have many of these buildings relocated to Naper Settlement; there are about 30 such buildings there today, dated from 1831 to 1900. The Naper Settlement website has a photo tour that shows pictures of the various buildings.
Naper Settlement Today
Today, Naper Settlement has costumed villagers who interpret history for visitors, demonstrating many activities of daily life and work. Most of these people are volunteers, and many of the more popular positions have waiting lists. Children and teenagers are also able to volunteer as junior interpreters, apprentices, and journeymen.
Naper Settlement is also home to the Les Schrader Collection with over 40 paintings that illustrate the history of the town. Lectures and presentations about history and folk art are regularly scheduled, and holiday day camps are run for children as well. Additionally, an archival library staffed by the Fox Valley Genealogical Society is open on selected days. Additionally, of course, there is also a gift shop.
There is a admission charge of between $5-10 (US); audio tours are available for an additional fee. Admission rates are on the lower end for children, seniors, and large groups, and are also less during the winter months when fewer activities are available. Like many museums, Naper Settlement is closed on Mondays.
School Field Trips
Not surprisingly, Naper Settlement is a popular destination for field trips - school groups account for almost one third of the visitors each year. Special lesson plans are available to help teachers incorporate the visit into school lessons, and special programmes are available to allow students to explore:
- farm life
- industry - including printing, blacksmithing, basket-weaving, quilting, and spinning
- school life
- holiday celebrations
- history - especially the Civil War and Underground Railroad
Weddings and Parties
Naper Settlement is also used for wedding ceremonies and receptions. The historic Century Memorial Chapel is available for hire, and several wedding-related services can be arranged through the main office as well. There are other buildings and rooms, including a tavern, that are also rented out for receptions and parties of all sorts1.
Birthday and sleepover packages are also available, including one that focuses on a Victorian tea party. The immense popularity of the American Girl dolls and associated historical fiction books has undoubtedly increased the demand for such events.
Holiday Celebrations at Naper Settlement
Independence Day and Christmas are both cause for big celebrations at Naper Settlement. Both events aim to show visitors how the holidays were celebrated in the 19th Century. Traditionally, the summer events have been more interactive, allowing visitors a chance to make traditional foods or crafts, play games, dance, or try out daily tasks of the era. The winter events holidays, on the other hand, generally focus more on sights and sounds.