Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Naperville Art - Symbiotic Sojourn

The Promenade Building, where the Naperville Chamber is located, was developed by Dwight and Ruth Yackley of BBM, Inc. in 2003. They also commissioned a bronze relief to be installed in the courtyard: “Symbiotic Sojourn.”

“Symbiotic Sojourn” was created by Jeff Adams, an artist who works out of his own bronze-casting facility, inBronze, which is located in Oregon, Illinois. He started working in a local fine art foundry when he was just fifteen years old, but pursued a degree in civil engineering before returning to sculpture. Adams also created
“Two in a Million,” the bronzes of Walter and Grace Fredenhagen along the Riverwalk and he worked with Dick Locher’s design to cast the Joseph Naper statue on Mill Street.

The idea behind “Symbiotic Sojourn” is that we have a symbiotic relationship with our home planet that needs tending. Two children are found at the feet of the woman who is the Spirit of the Earth. The girl child is trying to hold the pieces of a fracturing Earth together. The boy child is pulling a wagon piled with cans and bottles, a throw-back
image of recycling’s humble beginning.

“Symbiotic Sojourn” was inspired by Barbara Ashley Sielaff, a local recycling activist from the 1970s. Sielaff was a district teacher who also wrote a column for the Naperville Sun called “You Can Save Our Earth.” She established the Naperville Area Recycling Center in 1973 and managed it for several years before moving out of state.

After the Center closed, residents appealed to the city who tapped the League of Women Voters, the Kiwanis and the Naperville Woman’s Club, among others, to fill the void. NARC started as a not-for-profit volunteer-run drop-off center. After a while, one homeowner’s association began collecting recyclables from the entire neighborhood to drop-off at NARC. More neighborhoods followed suit, and eventually, recycling collection became a city-wide program.

In warm weather, dining patrons can sit out in the courtyard and listen to water spilling from the hand of the Spirit of Earth into the pool below. Larger than life, “Symbiotic Sojourn” is beautiful to look at, but Adams, Sielaff and the Yackleys hope diners will also bring the recycling message home.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Naperville Art: Dough- and Sailor-Boys

In 1996, the Century Walk Foundation was created by some citizens inspired by history and art. Since then, they have been instrumental in renovating or installing 50 public works of art around town. In 2019, we’ll highlight a few of them, but you can explore them all on your own.

In the park outside the train station at 5th Avenue, two World War I statues salute each other. Both were designed by Ernest Moore Viquesney, but arrived in Naperville at different times more than 80 years apart.

Viquesney’s father was a French monuments artist and stone carver who settled in Indiana. He taught the trade to his son who spent part of his career working, among other places, at the National Cemetery at the Andersonville
Civil War Prison site, before returning to Indiana.

Following The Great War (who knew there would be a second?), communities all over the country were eager to commemorate their veterans. Viquesney designed the “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” in 1920 and it was quite popular, appearing as life-size monuments, statuettes and even as a lamp base!

Naperville American Legion Post 43 purchased one and dedicated it on May 31, 1926. At the statue’s base is seven large stones honoring the Naperville sons who lost their lives in the war. A more recent plaque nearby lists all local WWI veterans.

Viquesney then designed “The Spirit of the American Navy” in 1926, but interest in the war had waned and only seven were ever made.

The years were hard on our “Doughboy” and Post 43 decided to raise funds to repair him and replace his rifle. He was rededicated in May of 2003.

In 2012, an expert familiar with Naperville’s rededication notified Century Walk that a “Navy” statue had been located. The committee purchased it the spring of 2013 and dedicated it in October.

After burying two beloved wives and facing his own health issues, Viquesney asphyxiated himself in his garaged automobile at age 70. He left behind some beautiful art, including the Tivoli Theatre, which was restored and reopened in 2013, and “The Unveiling,” the family’s burial statue, both located in Spencer, Indiana.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Naperville Parks -- Pradel Park

In completing 2018’s look at the namesakes of Naperville’s parks, let’s look at Pradel Park, named for Arthur George Pradel, Naperville’s Mayor Emeritus who passed away in September. The park is east of Route 59 and north of 111th Street and features softball fields, a playground, trails and a picnic shelter.

Father Arthur, who immigrated from Germany as a teenager, and mother Virginia bought land at Ogden and Naper Boulevard, about where the Aldi’s is now, to build themselves a house. With toddler George, they moved from Chicago and added rooms on as the family grew. George attended the one-room Bronsonville
Elementary and then Naperville Central High. His first jobs were at local grocery stores and he played in the Municipal Band. A faith-based family, they often visited orphanages and George thought he’d like to run one to care for children when he grew up.

As a young teen, George hitchhiked with a cousin to Wyoming to be a rodeo rider. After seeing cowboys thrown to the ground, they decided it was not for them, but they had a grand adventure. After graduation, he and three friends signed up for the Marines under the “buddy plan.” George served at 29 Palms in California,mainly in the motor pool.

Once back home, sister Grace and her roommate set him up with a
friend named Pat. After an awkward first meeting and a date at the stock car races, George and Pat married exactly one year later in 1960. After a couple years, George, Pat and new son George settled in Naperville where they welcomed two more children, Carol and Gary. George was working in Chicago at a warehouse during the week and volunteering with the Oak Park Terrace police department. Pat told him that if he like police work so much, why didn’t he just be a policeman? So he attended the law enforcement program at College of DuPage and applied for a job. Unfortunately, George didn’t meet the height requirement, but board member Harold Moser figured “if he’s tall enough for the Marines, he’s tall enough for us” and he got the job. Many of Naperville’s children remember him fondly as Officer Friendly.

Although he never did run an orphanage, as a juvenile officer, George frequently brought home youngsters who needed a home. He and Pat served as long-term foster parents to three teens. To support their growing family, George and Pat ran a little hotdog stand for a while called the PowWow. It was housed in the little building that was recently Lil’ J’s Bohemia until torn down with Russell’s Dry Cleaners last year. George also made donuts at Tasty Bakery before starting his shift with the police department and delivered flowers for Trudy’s since he knew the streets so well.

When retirement arrived, George figured he’d take it easy, maybe be a Walmart greeter, but some local folks asked him to run for mayor. Since he always found it hard to say “no,” George agreed — and won. Without a lot of experience, he worked hard to get up to speed as mayor of a booming city, but his best qualities were his people skills and his enthusiasm for Naperville. He was everywhere from charity functions to ribbon cuttings to council meetings and served an unprecedented five terms as mayor.

George loved Naperville and knew it well. Pradel Park is a fitting remembrance for a man who gave so much to his city and was happy to do so.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Naperville Parks - Kendall Park

Naperville boasts an elementary school, a VFW, a street AND a park named for Oliver Julian “Judd” Kendall. As we just honored the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, this is a perfect time to talk about Kendall Park’s namesake. 

Judd Kendall enlisted in June of 1917 and attended the Army Engineers School. In addition to his natural talents, having a father who who served as mayor of Naperville probably gave him a leg up and he soon became a First Lieutenant and intelligence officer. 

He was part of the First Division, which in May of 1918 was about to launch the first American battle of World War I in Cantigny, France. Checking up on some suspicious activity in no-man’s-land, Kendall was captured, along with maps of the planned invasion.  

Postponing the invasion was seriously considered because the German forces might now have the information needed to prepare, but the troops got the go-ahead three days later and had every advantage of surprise. Kendall had given nothing away. 

Months later, Kendall’s body was found buried behind enemy lines. He was missing teeth and his throat appeared to be cut. Kendall was 28 years old. 

World War I ended when the armistice took effect on November 11, 1918, on the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” Armistice Day was a resolution by Congress in 1926 and became a national holiday in 1938. President Eisenhower changed the name to Veteran’s Day in 1954 to honor all veterans, living or dead. 

The Battle of Cantigny so affected Colonel Robert R. McCormick that he named his family’s summer home “Cantigny.” McCormick also served in the First Division and a museum honoring “The Big Red One” has been built on McCormick’s property.

Naperville’s VFW post was chartered in 1944 and almost immediately chose Kendall as their namesake. In 1997, the post started the process to honor Kendall for his valor. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and WWI victory medal.

Kendall Park is bordered by Washington Street, 5th Avenue and the railroad tracks. It’s a lovely swath of green with a children’s playground. Just the sort of hometown scene soldiers go to war to protect.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Naperville Parks - Kroehler Park

Kroehler Park is tucked away between Wright and Sleight Streets on 5th Avenue. The park butts up against some of the properties that are part of the 5th Avenue Development currently under consideration. Also, appropriately enough, it’s just a stone’s throw away from 5th Avenue Station which was once known as the Kroehler Manufacturing Company.

The Kroehler Company was once one of the largest manufacturers of upholstered furniture in the world, employing a large percentage of Naperville’s citizens. 

Peter E. Kroehler was born in 1872 and grew up in Minnesota. His immigrant parents encouraged education and hard work and Peter made the most of that advice. 

He attended North Central College here in town when it was still known as North-Western and was a student of professor James Nichols, the library’s namesake. Nichols was also a founding partner of the Naperville Lounge Factory and they hired young Kroehler as a clerk. 

By 1896, Kroehler was one of the partners and by 1903, he was president of the company, buying out the two remaining partners. (Nichols died in 1895.) Within the next few years, Kroehler also started his own furniture manufacturing firm in Kankakee. 

By1915, he had merged the companies, along with several others he acquired, under the Kroehler Manufacturing name. While the company was dissolved in 1981, you can still purchase new furniture today with the Kroehler name. 

Not only was Kroehler a successful business man and the main employer in town, he also served two terms as Naperville’s mayor. 

The 5th Avenue Station building is actually the second furniture factory. The first was destroyed by a tornado in 1913 so Kroehler built a new one. 

In 1946, a devastating train crash occurred on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad close to the Kroehler building, killing 45 people and injuring another 125. Kroehler employees were first on the scene and their warehouse was used as an emergency medical station. 

Kroehler park is a charming neighborhood park with play equipment for youngsters in the area. While small, Kroehler Park can claim an impressive amount of Naperville history behind its name.