Throwback (way back) Thursday: Naper Settlement playscape opening

The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape
features an array of interactive, accessible features designed to
pique young children's curiosity about Naperville's earliest settlers. | Susan Frick Carlman/Sun-Times Media
The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape features an array of interactive, accessible features designed to pique young children's curiosity about Naperville's earliest settlers. | Susan Frick Carlman/Sun-Times Media

At Naper Settlement, the days of playing on a climber, just because it’s there, are history.

Beginning Thursday, kids will climb around a space that reimagines Naperville’s early days through creative play. The Rita (Fredenhagen) and John Harvard Early Learning Playscape is designed to give tomorrow’s preservationists a hands-on way to interpret yesterday as it was lived by the New England transplants and other European-descended immigrants who put down roots near the meandering DuPage River’s west branch in the early 19th century.

Geared to attract the 2- to 7-year-old set, the new playground wraps around the front of the downsized replica of Fort Payne that was built at the Settlement in 1979. The playscape’s features include the city’s first splash pad; a kid-scaled trading post; sensory garden areas; a path spotlighting animal tracks; and a Conestoga wagon, for climbing on. The reproduced Fort Payne also will be open again to young explorers of the past.

Rena Tamayo-Calabrese, Naper Settlement’s recently hired president and CEO, noted that children using the space will find out about such things as how, in the 1830s, the newly arrived Joe Naper traded with the Native American residents he found living on the fertile rolling landscape that later would come to bear his name.

“The wonderful thing about this is it’s a learning opportunity, not just a playscape,” Tamayo-Calabrese said, stopping in to check the progress Saturday afternoon.

Crews were hard at work over the weekend, aiming to finish up the 10,000-square-foot interactive play space before its grand opening at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Assorted local dignitaries are scheduled to offer brief comments before the official ribbon-cutting by Mayor A. George Pradel opens the playscape to all.

A majority of the funding for the $450,000 project was provided by $262,000 earmarked by the city for the purpose. The remainder came from the Naperville Park District; contributions raised by the Naperville Heritage Society; and a donation given by John Harvard and his late wife, Rita Fredenhagen Harvard, who passed away two years ago.

Tags: ,

0 Comments




Modal