Naper Settlement is an outdoor 19th century living history museum that serves northeastern Illinois as a unique educational and cultural resource. The village tells the story of how life changed throughout the 19th century for the people of northern Illinois in towns such as Naperville.
During this era, Naper's Settlement was transformed from a pioneer outpost in 1831 to a bustling turn-of-the century community. Through its costumed interpreters and 30 historic buildings located on the 13-acre grounds, history is brought to life with educational and hands-on activities for 360,000 visitors each year.
Naper Settlement was established in 1969 by a group of individuals who were interested in saving St. John's Episcopal Church from demolition. The group, called the Naperville Heritage Society, was a grassroots effort of community members who raised the funds to have the historic church transferred to the grounds of the Martin Mitchell Mansion. The church has been renamed Century Memorial Chapel and is the site of many special events, from weddings to recitals.
Martin Mitchell Mansion
More than 30 years before the settlement and the Naperville Heritage Society were established, Caroline Martin Mitchell laid the groundwork by donating her family's Victorian mansion and surrounding 212 acres to the City of Naperville in 1936. One of her requests was that her home, built in 1883, would remain a museum in perpetuity. Today, her home has been brought back to its original Victorian splendor through a three-year, $2.8 million restoration project that was completed in November of 2003. The project encompassed a thorough interior and exterior restoration of the 19th-century brick mansion and its adjacent frame carriage house. Restored to a period of historic significance, these properties now accurately convey the residential and agricultural practices of Victorian-era society.
Naper Settlement is located on 13 acres that were originally part of the George Martin estate. There were pine trees original to the site; hence, the mansion and grounds were originally called "Pine Craig." The site's two original buildings are an 1883 mansion and a carriage house, which underwent a complete restoration from 2000-2003.
After the Naperville Heritage Society was founded in 1969, they moved a Civil War-era church to the site and also adapted a former popcorn stand into a stonecarver's shop. As buildings were moved to the site, volunteers planted trees and created gardens. Through the years, additional trees and perennials were added to the site, creating a lush yet manicured look that enhances the historic nature of the 30 structures now on site. Environmental pathways and landscaping
A major roadways and stormwater management project in 2011 has transformed the grounds into an eco-friendly environment. The brick paths are permeable pavers, which are surrounded by rain gardens, a bioswale and other features that help manage and purify stormwater.
Through the vision of Naperville residents such as Caroline Martin Mitchell and the Naperville Heritage Society, Naper Settlement has continued to thrive and grow. Plans for the future include adding more historic homes and continuing to preserve the past while looking to the future.