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Short Posts of Historic Facts and Events in Illinois

15

Aug

2018

Naperville Parks -- Springbrook Prairie

Springbrook Prairie sprawls between 75th and 87th Streets, enclosing both Book and Naperville-Plainfield Roads. It’s no surprise to learn that Spring Brook runs through the prairie. The vast green space includes Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve with Springbrook Golf Course in the southwest corner.

The land on which the golf course sits was once owned by the Fraley family. Frank and Jenny Fraley were founding members of the Rural Progress Club in 1917 and raised five children on their Wheatland Township farm. It was the the first piece of property owned by the then-fledgling Park District, purchased in 1967 thanks to a matching grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Anticipating the housing boom of the 1970s, the land was intended to preserve green space among new building and help control run-off and flooding. A campground was planned with a beach for swimming on a 200 acre lake shaped like a dragon. The dragon remains in the bronze map of Naperville which is embedded in the sidewalk on Jackson Avenue.

Dragon Lake never materialized, however. A “stream re-meandering” project instead created wide curves to slow water flow during heavy rains and fight erosion.

“Re-meandering” helped improve the habitat for wildlife that lives in and near the water. In fact, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission designated the area in1993 as the Springbrook Prairie Nature Preserve and Springbrook Marsh Land and Water Reserve.

In addition to all the nature found in Springbrook Prairie, seven miles of pathways are open to joggers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers and even horseback riders. An off-leash area for dogs with valid Forest Preserve District permits is accessible from 83rd Street and there is also a model aircraft field accessible from Plainfield-Naperville Road.
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18

Jul

2018

Naperville Parks - Central Park

When the Napers arrived in 1831, the land was part of Cook County. In 1839, Joseph Naper was instrumental in establishing the county of DuPage with the county seat located here in Naperville. Land was set aside and $5000 raised to build a courthouse with jail cells. Outbuildings were later built for additional offices.

Over the next couple of decades, however, Wheaton’s importance grew while Naperville’s waned. Moving the county seat became a highly contentious issue that was resolved - if not amicably, at least without bloodshed - in 1868.

The courthouse was dismantled and sold as salvage. The outbuildings were taken over by the Fire Department to house their engines. And the rest of the courthouse square was improved to become a well-regarded public park.

Walkways, benches and landscaping were added. Monuments were erected such as a Civil War cannon, both Naperville and DuPage County Centennial markers and both the Soldiers and Sailors and Veterans’ Valor monuments.

Dedication for a new sculpture, a young, laughing Abraham Lincoln, is planned for September as part of Illinois’ Bicentennial.

The Fire Department moved out in 1888 which allowed for even more amenities. In the 1970s, some land was turned into parking spaces and landscaping berms were created. A shady children’s playground on one end is one of the more popular features.

The first band stand was erected in 1889 and has been reimagined several times since. The current concert and rehearsal facility was dedicated in 2003. Free concerts are held every Thursday during the summer.

Bring your family (and a picnic!) to enjoy some old-fashioned fun in lovely Central Park any Thursday during the summer and party like it's 1899.
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28

Jun

2018

Fourth of July for Naperville’s Founders


Joseph Naper and the first group of settlers didn’t arrive on the banks of the DuPage River until mid-July. Most likely, Naper’s family and friends marked Independence Day during their journey, perhaps even on board Naper’s schooner, the Telegraph, but mark it they surely did.

In the 1830’s people celebrated Independence Day with more enthusiasm than Christmas. Puritan reaction to wanton revelry at Christmas – so extreme they even outlawed mincemeat pie! – passed through successive generations of New Englanders, not be relieved until the middle of the nineteenth century. But the young United States of America began celebrating July 4 by 1777, years before the War for Independence actually ended.

Even the earliest celebrations featured firecrackers, as well as the firing of guns and the ringing of bells to punctuate a spirited reading of the Declaration of Independence. After the war, festivities grew ever more extravagant, following President John Adams conviction that “it ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Naper built, owned or captained several ships before the Telegraph, several of them sailing regularly out of Buffalo, New York. A Buffalo Historical Society publication recounts the city’s celebrations on July 4, 1828, which Naper may have attended with his family.

The day started at the Eagle Tavern, where “the uniformed companies of the village were ordered out” to escort the mayor and city officials to the Brick Church, accompanied by “the Buffalo Village Band playing patriotic airs.” At the church, the Declaration was read aloud and an oration was given by a local reverend. Then the parade continued to the Mansion House, another tavern, where dinner was served.

But the Mansion House didn’t host the only party. Villagers also celebrated at other public houses, cruised on a lake steamboat, attended one of two concerts, danced at a ball, and marveled at the fireworks display in Mr. Basker’s public garden. And all of this was “less elaborate” than the originally planned celebrations, abandoned, according to the local newspaper, because of “the indifference that was manifested to the proposed arrangements.”

One reason Independence Day celebrations became so grand was to overshadow commemorations of George Washington’s birthday. While he was much beloved as a war hero and our first President, celebrating his birthday smacked of “monarchical” traditions and was unacceptable to Democratic Republicans. The Fourth of July served the celebratory purpose in a more politically correct way.

No party is complete without a feast and Independence Day celebrations often included “much drinking of spirits, and eating of unwholesome food,” as an 1836 publication for the edification of juveniles put it. Toasts were drunk to each of the original thirteen states, then the newer states, then the President, then the Congress, then – well, once they got going, they kept it up until the whiskey ran out.

Orations provided entertainment, a political forum and food for thought. Chief Black Hawk’s final public appearance was on a Fourth of July in 1838 at Fort Madison, Iowa. Over 180 years ago, Black Hawk attempted to regain control of tribal land in northern Illinois. Defeated,
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20

Jun

2018

Naperville Parks - The Wil-O-Ways

Two parks bear the name “Wil-O-Way,” with one distinguished as “Wil-O-Way Commons.” Both are also situated on Jefferson Avenue within the Wil-O-Way subdivision.

As you might imagine, the parks are named for the subdivision — and the subdivision is named for the dairy farm on which the subdivision was built.

George and Dorothy Polivka raised Guernsey cows, starting the Wil-O-Way Farm Dairy in the late 1930s. In 1945, the Polivkas purchased Oakhurst, a gracious home built in 1847 that adjoined their farm. They changed the name of the house to Wil-O-Way.

Naperville’s first big building boom arrived in the 1960s and the Polivka family rolled with the times. Their farmland became the Wil-O-Way subdivision and son James Polivka opened Wil-O-Way Manor restaurant in the family home. Today, the house is known as Meson Sabika.

The Wil-O-Way subdivision was built in several phases, starting in 1967, and is situated on either side of Jefferson Avenue and River Road, about a mile west of downtown Naperville.

Rumor has it that the land on which Wil-O-Way Park sits was reserved as a possible elementary school site, anticipating continued population growth.

Today, the park features a children’s playground, basketball nets and a baseball diamond.

Wil-O-Way Commons Park runs along the DuPage River. There is a children’s playground at this location as well.

In 2011, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the West Branch Riverway Trail that runs through Wil-O-Way Commons.

The Riverway Trail starts across Jefferson Avenue where the Riverwalk ends and continues under Ogden Avenue to connect up with McDowell Grove Forest Preserve. The
Riverway Trail is maintained as a cooperative effort between the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, the City of Naperville and the Naperville Park District.

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16

May

2018

Naperville Parks -- The Riverwalk

The DuPage isn't a super impressive river. When the Napers arrived, a dam and pond was required to mill lumber and grain. Today, of course, Naperville is well-known for its beautiful and bustling Riverwalk.

Eventually, the mill pond dam was removed and the city grew. Too shallow for commercial transportation, land near the river attracted businesses that didn’t mind the threat of floods
such as storage lots, junkyards and gas stations. Mayor Emeritus Pradel remembers guys from his youth driving their cars into the river to wash them, a story commemorated in one of the Century Walk murals.

As the Naperville’s 150th anniversary approached, civic leaders took a fresh look at the river running through downtown. Inspired by the riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, they wondered if building something like it here would bring shoppers back from the new mall that had opened on Route 59 in Aurora.

Fundraising started in 1980 and folks donated both money and in-kind materials. A timely slowdown in the economy prompted businesses to contribute skilled construction crews as well. Anniversary fervor provided even more hours of unskilled volunteer labor.

The banks of the river were cleaned of trash. The ground was cleared, graded and planted. Paths were marked out and bricks laid. Lighting, bridges and fountains were installed. The Free Speech Pavillion, right across from the library, was built on the foundation of an old gas station.

These first two blocks of the Riverwalk were officially presented to Naperville’s citizens during the 175th Anniversary celebrations in June of 1981. Since then, it has expanded west, east and south, giving folks 1.75 beautiful miles to stroll, run on and enjoy year round.

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Using Tech for Book Marketing

Don and Kate Gingold

 

Kate and husband Don have been building websites since 1996 for all sorts of clients, including authors.

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