Thursday, April 06, 2006

Historic Naperville Homes to Bite the Dust Soon

From this week's Preservation Online, this article about historic Naperville homes in danger of being demolished.

The article shares frustratingly few details about the history of the imperiled houses, including the one at left. (I could find little more by surfing.)

I lived in Naperville from about 1976 through about 1985, from roughly elementary school through my early college years. When we moved there, the population was 35,000. Today, as the Preservation Online article states, Naperville is a "boomburb." It's now the fourth largest city in the state with a population of about 130,000.

There's no doubt in my mind that my interest in issues of planning, sustainability, and smart growth were forged in Naperville. I remember very clearly riding my bike to the end of the feeder street in my subdivision and gazing out across a four-lane 50 mph street that I had no way of crossing safely. On the other side was the route to the downtown where the hobby shop, library, and Rexall drug store could be found. I could not taste those simple freedoms without my mom driving me there in the back of our brown Chevy Impala.

I could only intuit back then that something was not exactly right about the exotic nature of my street's name -- Royal Bombay Court -- and the circumscribed, golf course-draped life I was bound to. I also remember driving by grazing cows on Erb farm on my way to and from the grocery store, but back then, I thought it unremarkable. To me, it was just further evidence that we never should have left Ohio.

I'm also certain my ambivalence about my suburban experience is why I'm determined to raise my children in downtown Chicago. To be fair, this life has challenges and shortcomings of its own. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Update: Okay, by the ocean. I would have it by the ocean if the stars allowed.

Photo via Preservation Online and the Naperville Heritage Society.

Link to Naperville's grassroots Community First group that has the mission of encouraging "the compatible redevelopment of established neighborhoods." (Find their website here.)

Epodunk profile of Naperville here.


Anonymous said...

What a shame. About the houses in danger and your experiences there. I too lived in Naperville from 76-93 and remember wonderful freedom on our bikes. Our bikes took us to cornfields and dirtmounds where building would take place. It took us to ponds and horses where we would stop and share a snack. Neighborhoods linked by miles and miles of sidewalks where we felt we had NO boundaries. I only wish my children had the same opportunity to hop on their bikes, be safe, and just ride.

Jennifer said...

Did you live in a subdivision or in a non-subdivision part of Naperville? I wonder if that accounts for our different experiences as mine was very subdivision-oriented. I can't think of any part of Naperville that one could "just ride" in back then, but, obviously, my world was not so big.

I will say that I do feel like my kid (who is 6 now) has a lot of opportunities to get on his bike and ride in the city. We take him to Oz Park via bike and a nearby school lot.

We also ride along the lakefront with him, although right now it's in one of those duplex bikes that attaches to my husband's. It will probably get a bit more circumscribed for a while, but no more so, I suppose, than I recall in my subdivision. . .

Thanks for stopping by. Sorry for my delayed response.