New Plans in Store for Historic Naper Settlement
The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape had its ceremonial groundbreaking recently. The playscape—a 10,000 square-foot interactive playground—is located next to the Fort Payne exhibit near the south end of Naper Settlement’s 12-acre campus.
Designed for kids age 2 to 7, the playscape includes amenities like a kid-sized trading post, splash pad and other hands-on learning experiences, while being fully accessible for children with disabilities.
“You’re catching them at an ideal age, 5 or 6,” said Mayor A. George Pradel at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Because when I was teaching kids that age at SafetyVillage, they listen and they soak up all that knowledge…you never know what’s going to happen when they play here.”
Pradel also commended John Harvard and his late wife Rita for their generosity and support for the community, noting that the couple loved one another, the city, the Settlement and the kids.
“We start out from the very bottom with our children, because they are our future,” Pradel said.
The $450,000 project is being funded by a donation from the couple, the city, the Naperville Park District and donations from local individuals and families.
More than 30,000 kids visit the site every year, said Sally Pentecost, chairman of the Naperville Heritage Society.
“For us, this is completing the cycle and starting where we should be starting,” Pentecost said.
“This is the first exciting piece of what you will see at Naper Settlement in the years to come,” said Dave Kelsch, who preceded Pentecost at the Naperville Heritage Society. He noted that the playscape is just part of what the organization sees down the road.
The largest project for the campus will be Scott’s Block. It is planned for the Village Green, which is an open area in the center of Naper Settlement. The project is a long-term, $22 million investment that will commemorate Naperville’s bicentennial in 2031.
“Scott’s Block was owned by the Willard Scott family. It took up a city block where the U.S. Bank is now,” said Debbie Grinnell, vice president of museum services. Scott’s Bank was the first bank in Naperville.
“Scott’s Block is kind of the capital project of our bicentennial vision for Naper Settlement’s growth and development,” Grinnell said. “We’re looking forward to that 200th anniversary and how we’re going to share that culture and that story of how Naperville got to be Naperville.”
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