Illinois, North America

Historic Naper Settlement

The saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That also applies to me and what drew me to the Historic Naper Settlement. I spent most of the month of May in Illinois, helping my parents pack their house and sell some things they didn’t want to take on their next adventure. We worked hard and needed a break. I love historical places, so a trip to the Naper Settlement in Naperville was in order. Somehow, in all the trips I took to visit them, I had never been. It was my last shot.

Naper Settlement Entrance


Built in 1883, the Martin Mitchell House is the centerpiece to this outdoor museum of historical buildings that were originally built in various places around Illinois or are re-creations of buildings. The Martin Mitchell House, built by George Martin, is the only building on the site that is in it’s original location.

In 1936, daughter Caroline Martin Mitchell donated the home and surrounding 212 acres to the City of Naperville, with the request that the home would remain a museum in perpetuity. In 1969, the Naperville Heritage Society was interested in saving St. John’s Episcopal Church from demolition. They raised funds to have the church moved to the grounds of the Martin Mitchell House and the Naper Settlement was born.

Naper Settlement Martin Mitchell Mansion

Martin Mitchell House

This is the only building in the settlement which requires a guide to walk you through. The tour is included with your admission and our guide was very knowledgable. One note, which I did not know until I took the two photos below, no photos are allowed in the home. That’s a real bummer because there are some really interesting things in the home.

Naper Settlement Martin Mitchell Mansion

The tour lasts 30 minutes and the guide will not only tell you about the building of the home, but stories about the family as well. For example, George and Sibelia Martin had four children. One of their daughters, Elizabeth, was a little person. In those days, little people were hidden away, but not in this family. Every effort was made to ensure her health, comfort and happiness, such as building furniture in her size, like the small chair in this photo. It made my heart happy to hear this fact.

Naper Settlement Martin Mitchell Mansion

Blacksmith Shop

This Blacksmith Shop is a recreation of a late nineteenth century shop that was located in Naperville. The tools inside were donated by the family of Henry J Wohead.

Naper Settlement Blacksmith Shop

This plow is one used with a horse to plow fields. My dad told me he used to plow his grandfather’s fields in West Virginia with one just like this. That was surprising to me, but it probably shouldn’t have been. My dad comes from humble beginnings.

Naper Settlement Blacksmith Shop

This is a foot operating grinder. Although my dad told me this, when you visit the settlement there are people in most of the buildings dressed up in outfits of the time who will give presentations and answer your questions.

Naper Settlement Blacksmith Shop

Fire House

The Naperville Village Fire Department was established in 1874 after several buildings in Naperville when up in flames. It was a volunteer fire department at that time. It was later moved from downtown to Naper Settlement.

Naper Settlement Firehouse

This is the first pumper owned by the fire department, named Joe Naper. It was used until 1916.

Naper Settlement Fire Truck

School House

This is a one room schoolhouse of the time. There was a person there to tell us all sorts of things about schools of the time. My dad went to school in a school like this and was telling us about it some as well. The school rules here written on the board and I don’t think they would be very popular now.

  1. Obey thy elders.
  2. Speak only when spoken to.
  3. Idleness is sinful.
  4. Busy hands maketh a quiet mouth.
  5. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  6. Stand thy body tall to recite.
  7. Hold thy tongue when others speak.
  8. Honor thy father and thy mother.
  9. Give thanks for life’s blessings.
  10. Children should be seen and not heard.

Naper Settlement Schoolhouse

This is a window to the meeting house that was also used as a school house. The meeting house was built in 1841 by German immigrants. It hosted various church services, library and town meetings.

Naper Settlement Metting House

Living Quarters

I was very interested in this log home because we are currently building a log cabin in Alaska. This one is a little smaller than ours will be, but not tons smaller. However, we will have less people living in ours. This one housed about 7 people and had an attic bedroom. Isn’t it cute? It was built in the 1840’s in Jonesboro, Illinois.

Naper Settlement Log Cabin

This is the Haight House and was originally built by the family of James Naper, brother of the city’s founder. It was purchased and refurbished by John Haight and moved to the settlement in 1986. It has had various uses over the years, like a residence and an outbuilding. Currently it is a playroom for kids who visit the Naper Settlement.

Naper Settlement Naper Haight Building

Play Area

A covered wagon is attached to the children’s playground and is situated so the kids can get inside. After all of the packing we were doing, I was joking with my step-mom that she would have had to fit all of what she wanted to keep in this wagon if she wanted to move. I think that would be very hard for any of us these days.

Naper Settlement Covered Wagon

It Ends at the Beginning

Century Memorial Chapel, built in 1864 and was the first building moved to the settlement in 1970. ¬†Today it is used for special events and weddings. We were told you have to book two years in advance to have a wedding here. I didn’t even know my husband two years before I married him. It’s very beautiful inside.

Naper Settlement Church

I really enjoyed my visit to the Naper Settlement. While I shared a lot of photos and information here, you won’t be bored if you visit. There are a lot of other buildings and an indoor museum for you to explore. If you love historical areas, I highly recommend a trip.


Historic Naper Settlement







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  • Jane Frith June 13, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    I had never heard of the Naper Settlement before I read this, but now it is firmly on my list of places to seek out when I visit Illinois. I want to find out more about “little” Elizabeth. I wonder how she fared. As a former teacher, I loved the school room and the rules! I think you have really managed to capture the flavour of the place with your commentary and all the photographs.

    • ppadmin June 13, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Thank you so much. It was an interesting place. I’m glad I was able to go for a visit.

  • Angela June 16, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    We live in Illinois and have not been to the Naper Settlement yet! I think my nephews would enjoy it but just haven’t made it happen yet. Naperville is a fun city with lots to do.

    • ppadmin June 18, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Look them up because they have a lot of events. Maybe you can go during something really fun.

  • Elaine Masters June 17, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    Lovely that you were able to help your parents (and I do know how much work that can be.) Also cool that you were able to explore this settlement. It’s amazing to see how different life was back in the early days of the country. I too love that the family built special furniture for their little daughter. Kind times.

    • ppadmin June 18, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      I was happy to help them. The settlement is a really neat place.

  • Vicky and Buddy June 17, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    I love historic places like this. You learn so much more history when you can see it like this, in person. I’m glad you were finally able to go. Isn’t it interesting how often we neglect to go to places so close to home? And how cool that your dad could add his own personal stories!

    • ppadmin June 18, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      I love learning about our past. My dad has some really great stories. I love spending time with him.

  • Linda June 18, 2018 at 4:16 am

    I like to visit outdoor museums. Feels like you are really there. I do hate when they limit photography at some sights. Seems to be a more common practice. It was indeed hard to believe that 7 people lived in the small wood cabin! Glad you got to visit this before your family moved out of the area!

    • ppadmin June 18, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      I’m so glad we got to visit too. I wish I would have been able to take pictures in the mansion. So many interesting things.

  • Mar June 18, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    How interesting that soany if these places are recreations it’s very nice to have them all in the same place and be able to learn more.naper settlement looks like it was frozen in time

    • ppadmin June 18, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      When you walk through, it looks like a tiny town, although I imagine there would be more houses in the original towns. I really enjoyed it.

  • Ghia Lorenzo June 19, 2018 at 3:45 am

    Never heard about Napper Settlement before, but I really enjoyed reading the history of it. It is also nice seeing the Mitchell house, the fire house, the school house, and the Blacksmith house’s including their tools are preserved. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • ppadmin June 20, 2018 at 9:40 am

      It was pretty interesting to see it all. I enjoyed seeing it all very much.

  • Adelina June 19, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    That log cabin looks so tiny especially for 7 people! What does it look like inside? How do they manage to sleep? The Naper Settlement looks like a fascinating glimpse into what life was like.

    • ppadmin June 20, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Downstairs is one room, which has about a full-size bed, a fireplace and a table. We couldn’t go up the ladder, but it was where anyone except the oldest couple slept, mostly on the floor with blankets.

  • Indrani June 19, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Such a good post on your exploration of this settlement. It is amazing how different life was back in those days. Great place as wedding destination, I can understand the waiting period.

    • ppadmin July 10, 2018 at 12:14 pm

      Thank you. I really enjoyed our time there. As for the waiting period, I didn’t even know my husband 2 years before I married him, so I don’t think that would have worked for us. Other people though because the schedule is full.

  • Lindsay Nieminen June 21, 2018 at 1:02 pm

    I have not done much travel in Illinois but glad I stumbled across this! Napier Settlement looks like something great for my kids! I wish I could send them to school there, I don’t think they follow any of those 10 rules, not even the cleanliness one! hahah

    • ppadmin June 25, 2018 at 5:28 pm

      I know just what your mean. I was thinking that our kids could use a few rules like the ones in the school. I hope you make it there to check it out.

  • Francesca Murray June 25, 2018 at 12:39 am

    I’ve never heard of the Napper Settlement before. I think it’s great they require a guide – they usually have the best insight! I like the rule hold thy tongue when others speak. Not enough of us do this!

    • ppadmin July 10, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      You’re so right. So many are thinking of their response instead of listening and learning.