By Rena Tamayo-Calabrese
In 2014, Naper Settlement announced its Never Settle Capital Campaign to build three new buildings on the Naper Settlement campus to help us tell Naperville’s story, share the important history of our agrarian roots, and engage our audience through virtual experiences no matter where they are. We are happy to announce that 2022 will mark an important milestone in bringing these goals to fruition!
After several years of fundraising, our 13-acre museum campus, currently home to 31 historic structures, will be expanding to include three new, state-of-the-art buildings. For the past 25 years, the Naper Settlement campus has stayed much the same while our mission and programs have expanded to include telling Naperville’s history through the present day. These new buildings will help connect museum goers to the past, make connections to the present, and inspire them for the future!
In September 2021, Naper Settlement broke ground on the Benck Family Agricultural Interpretive Center and the Herman & Anna Hageman Memorial Thresher Hall. These two buildings will explore Naperville’s agrarian roots and inspire students into important and essential agricultural careers. The Benck Family Agricultural Interpretive Center, a 4,000-square-foot exhibit and STEM-driven learning lab, will showcase the rich agricultural history of Naperville along with the critical role agriculture plays today in health, science, technology, economics, and the environment. This building is expected to be complete in fall 2022.
Inside the new center, the Ag STEM Lab will connect the more than 35,000 Illinois students who come to Naper Settlement for field trips each year with agricultural workers, farmers, and scientists nationwide to make agriculture come to life through experiential, engaging workshops.
The Herman & Anna Hageman Memorial Thresher Hall is a 1,247-square-foot building that will feature a 1912 Wood Bros. threshing machine, once owned by the Hageman Family and used by many local farmers when Naperville had more cows than people. This artifact has been preserved and will be on display for the building’s anticipated opening in spring 2022.
Finalization of the plan is underway for the Innovation Gateway, a new 5,150-square-foot education and welcome center. As the museum’s new front door, the building will set the stage for visitors as they begin their journey of learning across the centuries.
Serving an average of 300,000 visitors a year, the Innovation Gateway’s centerpiece will be an over-sized, wall-to-wall interactive 3-D digital experience filled with images, videos, and oral histories telling the story of Naperville.
Content can be explored by person, theme, or time period. With a tap on a screen, the city will come alive with stories of everyday citizens, civic leaders, change makers, and heroes whose contributions forever marked our path.
The virtual exhibit will also allow community members to upload their own stories, recollections, and images to the digital experience.
Community members will be able to add to a living archive of oral histories, providing new voices and experiences that will unfold at visitors’ fingertips. Construction is expected to begin in July 2022.
This is truly a transformative period for the museum and the Naperville community. Whether your New Year’s goal is to learn something new, connect with your community, or spend quality time with your family, Naper Settlement is here as a place of lifelong learning, discovery, and fun for all people.
523 S Webster