Experience life as a 19th century pioneer at the Naper Settlement Outdoor History Museum
The past and the present co-exist harmoniously in Naperville, where visitors can step back in time only minutes from the town’s bustling downtown district. Naper Settlement, the Chicago & Beyond region’s only 19th century village, has been perfectly maintained to serve as a family-friendly outdoor living history museum. The 12-acre grounds feature 30 historic buildings that replicate an old pioneer township, including homes, shops, chapel, fort, and one-room schoolhouse.
Costumed villagers and interactive exhibits make the settlement come to life for more than 125,000 visitors each year. To encourage exploration of history at all age levels, Naper Settlement has a variety of exhibition galleries to visit as part of the tour experience.
The ‘Brushstrokes of the Past’ gallery is a combination of artwork, artifacts and historic photographs woven together to share the story of Naperville’s development from a frontier settlement to an established modern day city. The ‘Heritage Gallery’ hosts temporary exhibitions on a variety of themes and topics, highlighting the museum’s artifact and archival collections, local artists, collectors and traveling exhibitions. ‘History Connection’ is geared toward young historians with a number of hands-on, engaging activities. The ‘Food for Thought’ exhibit encourages playing with your food as you go on a scavenger hunt throughout the grounds of the settlement to search for food-related items in the historic buildings.
The settlement was established in 1969 by a group of volunteers interested in saving the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church from demolition. This group became the Naperville Heritage Society and raised enough funds to transfer the church to the grounds of the historic Martin Mitchell Mansion. Caroline Martin Mitchell donated the mansion, and its surrounding 212 acres, to the City of Naperville in 1936. She requested her home remain a museum in perpetuity. Today, Naper Settlement continues to thrive and grow while teaching future generations about the importance of remembering the past.
— The Illinois Office of Tourism