River with trees along the banks and blue sky reflected
Chicago,  Monday walks,  Street art

A stroll around Naperville

The Chicago suburb / dormitory town of Naperville is unlikely to be on most tourists’ radar, unless like me you have a friend who lives there. And yet there are sights to be seen. Actually, that’s probably true of most places, isn’t it, if only we look?

Naperville is named for its founder, Joseph Naper, who according to Wikipedia was a man of many trades:

‘an early Illinois pioneer, ship captain, shipbuilder, businessman, surveyor, state militia officer, soldier, politician, and city planner’

Naper’s Settlement, later to be renamed Naperville, was one of the first communities to be established west of Fort Dearborn, in what is now Chicago. It lies on the banks of the DuPage river. My friend Isa and I were invited to visit by another Virtual Tourist friend Rich, host of our Chicago meet, as we’d arrived a couple of days ahead of the main group. We took the train from Union Street Station to Naperville, where Rich met us off the train.

Union St station, Chicago

Downtown Naperville

Just as Rich showed us around his home town, let me now show you, as a Monday Walk for Jo. We started in downtown.

In downtown Naperville

Among other sights here we saw an unusual statue of a young Abraham Lincoln in the city’s Central Park. It was installed here in 2018 and depicts him as he was aged 30, when he served in the Illinois State Legislature alongside Joseph Napier.

Laughing Lincoln

After coffee and a muffin (sorry Jo, I forgot to take a photo!) we drove over to the area of town that borders the river, parking outside the public library. There my eye was caught by the distinctive sculpture by the library’s entrance. Titled ‘Reading Children’, I at first thought only the girl was reading. On closer inspection I saw that the boy was too, while also doing a handstand!

Children Reading and public library (note the photographer far right!)

The Riverwalk

From the library we had an enjoyable walk on both sides of the DuPage river, along the town’s riverwalk. The Naperville Riverwalk was created in 1981 to mark the 150th anniversary of Joseph Naper’s settlement. It offers a pleasant place for walking, jogging and relaxing in the heart of the city. As well as offering pretty river views there are a number of features along the route, including lots of public art. And it provides access to leisure facilities such as boating in an old quarry, picnic and barbeque areas, an amphitheatre for performances and more.  

Two-D sculpture of a cat on a dog's back
Dog and cat sculpture, Riverwalk

Here are some highlights from our stroll.

Covered bridges

At several points along the path covered bridges link the two banks. They provide lovely views of the river, as in my feature photo.

Path leading to a wooden bridge with a roof
Covered bridge
The Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon

As the name suggests, this was built to mark the turn of the millennium in 2000. The bell tower stands 158 feet tall with 253 steps and 72 bells. The largest bell, nicknamed ‘Big Joe’ for Joseph Naper, weighs six tons. This carillon is said to be one of the four largest in the United States.

Nearby is a sculpture of Margaret and Harold Moser, a couple who played a vital role in the growth and development of Naperville.

The Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon, with the Moser sculpture in the foreground on the right

The Shanower Memorial

This was named for Naval Commander Dan Shanower, a Naperville native who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. It was one of the first memorials in the U.S. dedicated to lives lost that day. The memorial includes more than 140 faces moulded into a 48-foot wall that were created by Naperville schoolchildren to symbolise the casualties. Nearby a steel beam from the World Trade Centre rests on a pillar with an engraved memorial to those from the emergency response services who were killed. Also incorporated are 100 pounds of rubble from the damaged portion of the Pentagon, and granite from the Pennsylvania region where Flight 93 crashed after passengers took on the hijackers. A bench next to the memorial carries the slogan, ‘Freedom isn’t free’, the title of an article written by Commander Shanower.

The Shanower Memorial

Sculpture of Dick Tracy

This 9-foot tall bronze sculpture of Dick Tracy is dedicated to Dick Locher, a long-time Naperville resident, who was one of the artists who wrote and drew the Dick Tracy comic strip.

Sculpture of a man in a hat looking at his wristwatch
Detail of the sculpture of Dick Tracy

Arriving back at our starting point I spotted another of the pretty benches I’d noticed downtown. These dragonfly benches are part of the city’s annual summer sculpture series. A lovely note on which to end our morning’s walk.

Bench painted with a dragonfly and a fairy
Dragonfly bench

I visited Naperville in September 2023


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