1966 was a remarkable time — even in our little town. At the beginning of a development explosion, Naperville’s population grew 75% during that decade, from 12,933 to 22,617.
One of the remarkable things Naperville did was build The Barn. Technically, the project was finished in December of 1965 but it was highlighted in the 1966 high school yearbook, “Arrowhead.”
Today we think of
it as a location for Park District programs, but The Barn was actually developed by “youths of the community” with an adult advisory board.
Instead of tax money, 300 students went door-to-door to sell $48,000 in general obligation bonds, “the largest sum ever raised in Naperville.”
There were some hiccups during the project, including a couple of location changes when residents protested the barn look and the anticipated loud rock ‘n roll music. At one point, a disgusted Mayor Zaininger walked out of a City Council meeting when he couldn’t get support for The Barn’s lease petition.
Eventually an agreement was reached and Naperville Youth Organization, Inc. was given a 20-year lease at $10 a year.
Teens, both male and “muscle-bound suffragettes,” joined adult volunteers to haul brick and boards and do “anything they can” to raise the shell and finish the inside in time to have their first dance on December 4,1965. It was extremely well-attended.
Teen centers like this were popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s and many towns had a similar venue for kids to hear local bands. The Barn sold memberships, special event tickets and refreshments to pay ongoing expenses.
In 2010, “Barnstock” brought back a bunch of bands from 1965 to 1973 to relive The Barn’s glory days. Perhaps something similar will happen once more before The Barn is torn down after this year’s Last Fling is over.
Throughout this year we’ll look back on how remarkable 1966 was in Naperville’s history.