Innovation, agriculture buildings coming for Naper Settlement museum

  • An early concept drawing shows the future Innovation Gateway at the Naper Settlement historical museum in Naperville. The Gateway is slated to include a digital wall for storytelling from the 20th and 21st centuries.

    An early concept drawing shows the future Innovation Gateway at the Naper Settlement historical museum in Naperville. The Gateway is slated to include a digital wall for storytelling from the 20th and 21st centuries. Courtesy of Naper Settlement

  • The future Agricultural Center at the Naper Settlement historical museum in Naperville will help tell the stories of the city's early farmers and connect students to the changing science and business of agriculture.

    The future Agricultural Center at the Naper Settlement historical museum in Naperville will help tell the stories of the city's early farmers and connect students to the changing science and business of agriculture. Courtesy of Naper Settlement

 
 
Updated 11/25/2019 1:11 PM

A funding commitment from the city of Naperville means two buildings long in the works at the city's historical museum are on track to be built by mid-2025.

The city council committed to pay an anticipated $2.4 million to fund one-third of a new Innovation Gateway and Agricultural Center for the grounds of Naper Settlement, across Aurora Avenue from city hall at 523 S. Webster St.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The projects, Settlement President and CEO Rena Tamayo-Calabrese said, can "ensure we have a thriving museum moving forward" by incorporating technology into the work of sharing the city's history.

The future buildings are set to join roughly 30 others on the Settlement's 13-acre property at 523 S. Webster St., where the museum hosts school and Scout groups and special events such as the Naper Nights concert series.

Tamayo-Calabrese said the Naperville Heritage Society, which raises money to support the partially city-funded museum, now can finalize designs for the buildings.

While the city has committed to pay for not more than one-third of the Innovation and Agricultural projects, it will not make the money available until at least 2021 and until the Heritage Society has raised the other two thirds. Tamayo-Calabrese said the portion the nonprofit must raise will come from private donations -- some already received -- as well as grants and support from foundations.

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The Innovation Gateway is expected to cost $3.3 million and function as a new entrance with a digital wall where Naperville's stories from the 20th and 21st centuries can be told.

"It will provide some really amazing virtual reality-type capabilities that we've never had," Tamayo-Calabrese said.

Digital storytelling will help explain how the pillars of family, community and entrepreneurship have remained central to Naperville.

"How is it that those things that are at the corner of what we are as a community have persisted over time? It's no accident," Tamayo-Calabrese said. "This is a way for us to be able to tell those stories."

The Agricultural Center is anticipated to cost $3.9 million and serve as a place to tell of Naperville's early farmers as well as the future of nutrition, business, biology and other fields connected to agriculture. The Settlement is working with universities to use the center as a place to spark interest in agricultural careers, Tamayo-Calabrese said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"There's a variety of things that are forward-looking as well as to ensure that we can pay tribute to and acknowledge the amazing heritage that we have with our agricultural families," she said.

The center also will coordinate with other farming-related buildings already on the Settlement grounds, including a farm house, milk house, smokehouse and windmill.

Early funding for the projects has come from the Tellabs and Birck family foundations, the now-disbanded Wheatland Plowing Match Association and the founders of West Side Tractor Sales Co., among other donors.

Both the Innovation Gateway and Agricultural Center have been in the works for roughly six years. Also proposed along with these buildings was Scott's Block, which never gained support, but could have recreated a downtown Naperville city block from the mid-1800s.

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