Naperville is a suburb of Chicago, located in DuPage and Will counties in the State of Illinois. Naperville was voted the second-best place to live in the United States by Money magazine in 2006. It was rated 1st on the list of best cities for early retirement in 2013 by Kiplinger. In a 2010 study, Naperville was named the wealthiest city in the Midwest and eleventh in the nation with a population over 75,000. As of the 2010 census, the city had a total population of 141,853, which was estimated to have increased to 144,864 by July 2013. It is the fifth-largest city in Illinois, preceded by Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, and Joliet. Approximately 95,000 Napervillians live on the DuPage County side, while about 45,000 reside on the Will County side. Once a quaint farming town, Naperville has evolved into an affluent city.
In July 1831, Joseph Naper arrived at the west bank of the DuPage River with his family and friends to found what would be known as Naper's Settlement. Among those original settlers were Naper's wife Almeda Landon, his brother John with wife Betsy Goff, his sister Amy with husband John Murray, and his mother Sarah. Their arrival followed a nearly two-month voyage across three Great Lakes in the Naper brothers' schooner, the Telegraph. Also on that journey were several families who remained in the still raw settlement that would become Chicago, including that of Dexter Graves who is memorialized in Graceland Cemetery by the well-known Lorado Taft statue "Eternal Silence" (also known as "the Dexter Graves Monument").
By 1832, over one hundred settlers had arrived at Naper's Settlement. Following the news of the Indian Creek massacre during the Black Hawk War, these settlers were temporarily displaced to Fort Dearborn for protection from an anticipated attack by the Sauk tribe. Fort Payne was built at Naper's Settlement, the settlers returned and the attack never materialized. The Pre-Emption House was constructed in 1834, as the Settlement became a stage-coach stop on the road from Chicago to Galena. Reconstructions of Fort Payne and the Pre-Emption House stand as part of Naper Settlement outdoor museum village, which was first established by the Naperville Heritage Society and the Naperville Park District in 1969 to preserve some of the community's oldest buildings.
After DuPage County was split from Cook County in 1839, Naper's Settlement became the DuPage county seat, a distinction it held until 1868. Naper's Settlement was incorporated as the Village of Naperville in 1857, at which time it had a population of 2,000. Reincorporation as a city occurred in 1890.
A predominantly rural community for most of its existence, Naperville experienced a population explosion starting in the 1960s, but largely during the 1980s and 1990s, following the construction of the East-West Tollway (now known as the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway) and Interstate 355 (originally known as the North-South Tollway, now the Veterans Memorial Tollway). In the past two decades, it has nearly quadrupled in size as the Chicago metropolitan area's urban sprawl brought corporations, jobs, and wealth to the area.
On April 26, 1946, Naperville was the site of one of the worst train disasters in Chicago history. Two Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad trains, the Advance Flyer and the Exposition Flyer, collided 'head to tail' on a single track just west of the Loomis Street grade crossing. The accident killed 45 and injured approximately 127 passengers and/or crew members. This event is commemorated in a metal inlay map of Naperville on the southeast corner of the Nichols Library's sidewalk area. In 2012 author Chuck Spinner published The Tragedy at the Loomis Street Crossing which details the events of the tragedy and gives the stories of the 45 persons who perished. On April 26, 2014, a memorial entitled Tragedy to Triumph was dedicated at the train station. The sculpture by Paul Kuhn is dedicated not only to the crash victims but also to the rescuers at the crash site.
The March 2006 issue of Chicago magazine cites a mid-1970s decision to make and keep all parking in downtown Naperville free, in order to keep downtown Naperville "alive" in the face of competition with Fox Valley Mall in Aurora and the subsequent sprawl of strip shopping malls. Existing parking meters were taken down, parking in garages built in the 1980s and 1990s is free, and parking is still available on major thoroughfares during non-peak hours.
Naperville marked the 175th anniversary of its 1831 founding in 2006. The anniversary events included a series of celebrations, concerts and a balloon parade.