Naperville receives the spotlight in the WGN Radio Your Hometown series. Tune in Thursday, October 27 to hear stories from people and places in Naperville.

The fourth largest city in Illinois, Naperville is frequently named as a top community to live and work and its public library system has been lauded as one of the best in the nation. Located about 28 miles west of Chicago, Naperville extends into both DuPage and Will counties and is part of the Illinois Technology and Research corridor.

The land was first home to the Iliniwek, followed by the Potawatomi. The present site of downtown Naperville was once a major Potawatomi village. Well-traveled Indian paths like Buffalo Trail (Chicago Avenue) and Ottawa Trail (Ogden Avenue) were later developed into official roads by European settlers.

Pioneer and surveyor Joseph Naper is credited with founding Naperville along the DuPage River in 1831, originally calling it Naper’s Settlement. Naper later served as the first village president after the village was incorporated in 1857.

The first white settlers in DuPage county were Bailey Hobson and his family in 1830. They built their home and first grist mill in northern Illinois in 1834 along the river near Pioneer Park (1212 S. Washington Street). The Hobson home and marker are on Hobson Road, just east of Washington Street in Naperville.  

The oldest town in DuPage county, Naperville was the county seat from 1839 through 1868. Its designation as both a prominent stagecoach and later railroad stop helped propel growth, although it was predominantly rural until the 1960s when expressways propelled suburban sprawl.  

The Naperville Historic District in the eastern section of Naperville was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and represents the town as it was originally established. The First Congregational Church of Naperville (25 E. Benton Avenue), the oldest organized church in DuPage county, is within the boundary of the Naperville Historic District.

Established in 1969, Naper Settlement (523 S. Webster Avenue) is an outdoor 13-acre history museum that preserves some of the community’s oldest buildings and gives an insight into life in the 19th century. Notable buildings on the property include the Victorian Martin Mitchell Mansion built in 1883 and the Century Memorial Chapel, built in 1864 in the Gothic Revival style.

Naperville’s only hospital, Edward Hospital (801 S. Washington Street), was established as Edward Sanitarium in 1907 and was one of the first in the Midwest to offer treatment for tuberculosis with fresh air, rest and exercise. It became a general hospital in 1955.  

Downtown Naperville is a vibrant area with shops and restaurants and the oldest commercial buildings. The Naperville Riverwalk, known as the “Crown Jewel of Naperville”, was built by residents in 1981 in commemoration of Naperville’s 150th birthday. It offers residents nearly two miles of walkway with covered bridges, fountains, sculptures, a Grand Pavilion, Centennial Beach and other recreation.

At the base of the Riverwalk’s Rotary Hill is the 158-foot-tall Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon (443 Aurora Avenue) that was built in 1999. With 72 bronze bells, it is the fourth largest carillon in North America.

Outdoor recreation is plentiful in Naperville with an extensive park and forest preserve network, including Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve (29W128 83rd Street), McDowell Grove Forest Preserve (once a secret installation for developing radar technology during World War II), Greene Valley, Goodrich Woods, and Pioneer Park.   

Your Hometown featuring Naperville is sponsored by City of Naperville, Catch 35, Hearing Health Center, McDonald’s, and Naper Settlement.