Kroehler Park is tucked away between Wright and Sleight Streets on 5th Avenue. The park butts up against some of the properties that are part of the 5th Avenue Development currently under consideration. Also, appropriately enough, it’s just a stone’s throw away from 5th Avenue Station which was once known as the Kroehler Manufacturing Company.
The Kroehler Company was once one of the largest manufacturers of upholstered furniture in the world, employing a large percentage of Naperville’s citizens.
Peter E. Kroehler was born in 1872 and grew up in Minnesota. His immigrant parents encouraged education and hard work and Peter made the most of that advice.
He attended North Central College here in town when it was still known as North-Western and was a student of professor James Nichols, the library’s namesake. Nichols was also a founding partner of the Naperville Lounge Factory and they hired young Kroehler as a clerk.
By 1896, Kroehler was one of the partners and by 1903, he was president of the company, buying out the two remaining partners. (Nichols died in 1895.) Within the next few years, Kroehler also started his own furniture manufacturing firm in Kankakee.
By1915, he had merged the companies, along with several others he acquired, under the Kroehler Manufacturing name. While the company was dissolved in 1981, you can still purchase new furniture today with the Kroehler name.
Not only was Kroehler a successful business man and the main employer in town, he also served two terms as Naperville’s mayor.
The 5th Avenue Station building is actually the second furniture factory. The first was destroyed by a tornado in 1913 so Kroehler built a new one.
In 1946, a devastating train crash occurred on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad close to the Kroehler building, killing 45 people and injuring another 125. Kroehler employees were first on the scene and their warehouse was used as an emergency medical station.
Kroehler park is a charming neighborhood park with play equipment for youngsters in the area. While small, Kroehler Park can claim an impressive amount of Naperville history behind its name.