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Century Memorial Chapel
Chapel interiorOriginal Building & Location
In 1969, a handful of concerned citizens chartered the Naperville Heritage Society to preserve one of the oldest church edifices in northern Illinois - St. John's Episcopal Church. Built in 1864 on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Ellsworth Street on a lot owned by Captain Morris Sleight, it opened for worship in 1865 after 27 years of effort and planning by a handful of local Episcopalian families. The church structure was an exceptional example of the Gothic Revival architecture characteristic of northern Illinois' early churches. It also reflected the Episcopal congregation's New England roots.

By 1870, the parish had outgrown the structure. To accommodate the growth, it was enlarged by cutting it in two parts, moving the sanctuary back and adding a chancel and cross-transept. Throughout the years, as the parish continued to grow, they moved on to a new, larger building, leaving the old structure behind.

Relocation & Restoration
In 1969, the insurance firm of Prescott and Myers purchased the property on which St. John's stood to build an office complex. The insurance firm offered the Heritage Society the building as a gift, but funds were needed for excavation, laying a new foundation, moving the structure and its restoration. The society successfully raised over $20,000 plus an equal amount of in-kind services for the project. On June 17, 1970, the society moved the church to the Aurora Avenue site as the cornerstone for the Naper Settlement Museum village.

In preparation for a multi-phased restoration project, professional paint analyses were conducted of both the exterior and interior to ensure the building was restored to its historically correct colors. Additional restoration phases included replicating intricate stencil designs and motifs as could be seen on the ceiling and walls. The altar area, pews and wood floor were also restored.

Volunteers & Donors
The determination, vision and spirit of volunteers and donors to preserve Naperville's historic landmarks are embodied in the successful relocation of this building. The ability to garner resources, energize the volunteer spirit and cement partnerships was established with the effort of preserving Century Memorial Chapel. These keystones of collaboration remain the hallmark of the Naperville Heritage Society as it continues its historical preservation work for future generations.

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