In 1996, the Century Walk Foundation was created by some citizens inspired by history and art. Since then, they have been instrumental in renovating or installing 50 public works of art around town. In 2019, we’ll highlight a few of them, but you can explore them all on your own.
In the park outside the train station at 5th Avenue, two World War I statues salute each other. Both were designed by Ernest Moore Viquesney, but arrived in Naperville at different times more than 80 years apart.
Viquesney’s father was a French monuments artist and stone carver who settled in Indiana. He taught the trade to his son who spent part of his career working, among other places, at the National Cemetery at the Andersonville
Civil War Prison site, before returning to Indiana.
Following The Great War (who knew there would be a second?), communities all over the country were eager to commemorate their veterans. Viquesney designed the “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” in 1920 and it was quite popular, appearing as life-size monuments, statuettes and even as a lamp base!
Naperville American Legion Post 43 purchased one and dedicated it on May 31, 1926. At the statue’s base is seven large stones honoring the Naperville sons who lost their lives in the war. A more recent plaque nearby lists all local WWI veterans.
Viquesney then designed “The Spirit of the American Navy” in 1926, but interest in the war had waned and only seven were ever made.
The years were hard on our “Doughboy” and Post 43 decided to raise funds to repair him and replace his rifle. He was rededicated in May of 2003.
In 2012, an expert familiar with Naperville’s rededication notified Century Walk that a “Navy” statue had been located. The committee purchased it the spring of 2013 and dedicated it in October.
After burying two beloved wives and facing his own health issues, Viquesney asphyxiated himself in his garaged automobile at age 70. He left behind some beautiful art, including the Tivoli Theatre, which was restored and reopened in 2013, and “The Unveiling,” the family’s burial statue, both located in Spencer, Indiana.