ParkTalk Blog: Touring the Naperville Park District Interpretive Signs

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Interpretive signage is commonly used in parks and at facilities to enhance visitors' knowledge of the site. Over the last 20 years, the Naperville Park District has installed more than 40 interpretive signs across 15 parks. These signs tell the story of our community by educating visitors on the historical significance and environmental aspects of each location. While we hope that our residents and visitors will explore the parks and signs in person, this blog will act as a tour guide to highlight several of our interpretive signs that delve into the unique history of various locations.

95th Street Community Plaza - Barn Stones

Installed in 2022

Our tour begins at the 95th Street Community Plaza, which is adjacent to the 95th Street Library and within Frontier Sports Complex. It also is the former site of the Elias Myers Farm. This interpretive sign tells the story of Elias Myers and his family and gives information about the farm from the goods they produced to the construction details of the barn. The Myers farm was in the family from the mid-1860s until 1915, followed by the Koroluk family from the 1970s to 1996. The barn was demolished in 2001 prior to the construction of the 95th Street Library. The sign and the stones that lay at its base illustrate the long history of the community, and how different Naperville was over 100 years ago.

Knoch Knolls Nature Center - History of People on the Confluence

Installed in 2014

Knoch Knolls Nature Center houses the most interpretive signs in the Park District with 12 total signs. Each sign gives in-depth information on the ecology and sustainability of the nature center facility. At this stop on our tour, however, we will look at the diverse groups of people who lived on the confluence throughout history.

The first people arrived to this land over 12,000 years ago after the last glacier in the area melted. Nomadic hunters tracked prehistoric mammals to this area, and they camped along riverbanks for easy access to food and water. Thousands of years later, the hunter-gatherers became part of a tribe called the Inoca, also known as the Illiniwek. In 1673, the Illiniwek met Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet, the first European explorers to arrive in the area, and established trading posts near Illiniwek villages. Near the end of the 17th century, the Potawatomi natives drove the Illiniwek out of the area and established their own settlements. Around 1800, a French trader named DuPage established another trading post to trade with the Potawatomi. More settlements were established throughout the 1800s in the confluence, including the Naper Settlement, which would later become the City of Naperville we know today.

Knoch Knolls Park - First Claim on the Confluence

Installed in 2015

Across the bridge at Knoch Knolls Park is our next interpretive sign, which tells the story of Stephen J. Scott. The interpretive sign is located at the site of his cabin, just north of where the Scott cabin's water cistern was discovered. Stephen J. Scott was the first U.S. settler on the confluence land after the U.S. Government surveyed it. Scott's claim to the land came in 1830 after he and his son Willard saw "the Forks" of the DuPage River on a hunting trip. By 1835, three more families had built homes on land between the rivers, and it became known as the Scott Settlement.

The Scotts were well known in Illinois, and they are considered to be early Chicagoans and the City of Evanston's first settlers. In 1837, Stephen moved across the DuPage River to Naper Settlement and was later elected to DuPage County Treasurer in 1839. Stephen Scott traveled to California for the Gold Rush when he was 70 years old and was never heard from again.

Nike Sports Complex - Missile Site

Installed in 2014

The next stop is Nike Sports Complex. Commonly mistaken for the shoe brand, Nike Sports Complex is named after the Nike Missile Battery Site C-70. During the Cold War and due to the fear of atomic attacks, the United States government built defensive missile sites around urban areas. This site was one of 23 missile batteries that formed a defensive ring around the Chicago, Illinois and Gary, Indiana region. In 1975, as part of the Federal Lands-to-Parks program, the National Park Service donated part of the former missile launch area to the Naperville Park District, which later became the sports complex it is today. This sign tells the fascinating history of the land and gives a look into Naperville's significance during the Cold War.

Seager Park - The Story of This Land and its People

Installed in 2011

The fifth sign on our tour is found attached to the Interpretive Center at Seager Park. This interpretive sign provides details on the habitat of the land where the park resides as well as the history of the area. Originally, the land was used as a hunting ground by Potawatomi Native Americans. Once the tribe left, the land was sold to Jacob Bucks who began holding outdoor religious gatherings called "bush meetings." Religious meetings such as Bible studies, services and camps were hosted on the land for decades. From the 1930s-1980s, the church used the site as a Boys and Girls Camp and eventually renamed the site to Camp Seager after Bishop Larry Seager, the first head of the camp. The Naperville Park District bought the land in 1990 and kept Bishop Seager's legacy in the park's name.

A unique feature of this interpretive sign is the audio box that is attached. Visitors can listen to audio recordings of residents who lived near Seager Park, including George Pradel, former Mayor of Naperville. This is one of six interpretive signs at scenic Seager Park.

Veterans Park - History and Monuments

Installed in 2023

Veterans Park is a simple, yet beautiful park honoring veterans in the community. Residents can hike on the trail or take in the natural views of the DuPage River. The sixth stop of our tour features the Naperville Park District's newest interpretive sign highlighting the park's history, monuments and natural areas.

The sign provides details on what the land was before Veterans Park, how the park was created, and what the site is like today. Veterans Park includes three monuments dedicated to those who served our country: the Memorial Wall, the Peace Pole, and the Gold Star Families Memorial. The sign was made possible through the generosity of the Kiwanis Club of Naperville who adopted the park in 2011 and cares for this location through their volunteer efforts.

Wolf's Crossing Community Park - History of Wolf's Crossing

Installed in 2020

Our final stop of the tour takes us to Wolf's Crossing Community Park and to a sign that highlights the history of the 33-acre site. From the 1700s-1830s, Prairie Potawatomi were residents of the land, where they farmed corn, beans and squash before being pushed to resettle west of the Mississippi River in 1833. In 1846, the Wolf Family purchased land near the future park and built farming communities at rural crossroads. The 1850s-1970s were described as "120 Years of Farming," and this period displayed an authentic sense of community where large events took place and neighbors helped one another. As more homes, schools and businesses developed in the area, the land at Wolf's Crossing became a park - officially dedicated by the District in spring 2021 - and has become a favorite location for Naperville residents and those in adjacent communities, thereby highlighting the historic "crossroads" aspect from the land's early days.

Additional Naperville Park District Interpretive Signs:

While this is the end of our tour, there are still many interpretive signs across the Naperville Park District to discover. Taking an in-person tour of our parks is a great way to not only get out and enjoy some exercise and fresh air, but also to learn about the rich history that exists in the parks right here in our community.

The following links will take you to photos of the other interpretive signs across the Park District that focus on our organization's commitment to furthering environmental education and sustainability for the benefit of Naperville.

Country Lakes Park

Fort Hill Activity Center

Frontier Sports Complex

Knoch Knolls Nature Center

Knoch Knolls Park

Lincoln Greenway

Meadow Glens Park

Nike Sports Complex

Pioneer Park

Seager Park

Weigand Park

Winding Creek Park

Wolf's Crossing Community Park