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Glancer Magazine

WAY BACK WHEN | Community Roots In Naperville

NAPERVILLE’S AGRICULTURAL ROOTS RUN DEEP AT NAPER SETTLEMENT’S NEW EXHIBIT Naperville has grown significantly over the past 150 years. With a population shift of 12,933 residents in 1940 to over 146,000 today, few newcomers may realize that at one time the city had more cows than people.

Those who love west suburban history will enjoy Naper Settlement’s new exhibit Community Roots: Agriculture in Naperville that will be on view through October 8. The exhibit explores the powerful influence agriculture had on shaping everything from the city’s landscape to its local economy. This exhibit is free with daily museum admission, which is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62+) and $8 for youth (4-12). Naperville residents (with proof of residency) and members receive free admission.

The exhibit allows visitors to see the progression of land use, learn why early settlers chose the livestock they did, how the community supported agriculture and the impact technology had on farming and the changing landscape and population.

The Gregory family (pictured above), who owned a 400-acre farm which is now the Westfield Fox Valley Shopping Center, is among many Naperville farm families represented in the exhibition. On view is Larry Gregory’s 4-H electricity projects from 1947 and 1948, where he laid out future plans for wiring farm houses after World War II.

Larry Gregory went on to be the founder and chairman of Gregory Electric Inc. in Naperville. Larry made it a priority to help local area farmers with electricity powered labor-saving devices, such as supplying power for milking machines and wiring many of their houses and barns for light and power.

Other highlights of the exhibit include a Platform scale from Boecker Coal & Grain Co. and a 1940s Future Farmers of America jacket, worn by Eldon Hatch, a long-time Napervillian. Eldon’s family ran the largest cattle feeding operation in DuPage County on the former site of the Amoco Research Center in Naperville.

The Community Roots: Agriculture in Naperville exhibition includes stories and artifacts that are on exhibit at Naper Settlement’s Agricultural Interpretive Center. The center features virtual technology, hands-on programming and interactive exhibits to share stories of area farming families and teach the business and science of modern-day farming to Naper Settlement’s 140,400 annual visitors. The 5,000 square-foot center is the ideal place to learn, share and talk agriculture, the engine that feeds the planet.

About Naper Settlement Naper Settlement is a nationally accredited, award-winning outdoor museum set on 12 magnificent acres in the heart of Naperville, where history comes to play and community comes to connect. For more information, visit or call (630) 420-6010.

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