UNVEILING THE PAST
November 19, 1999 — Source: Naperville Sun, The (IL) — Author: Kathy Millen
During its early days as a farm community, Naperville relied on the horse to pull the plow, draw the wagon and take people where they had to go.
Consequently, buying a horse was no mere business transaction.
It was a major event.
From the late 1800s through 1925, the town set aside the first Saturday of the month as Horse Market Day. Held at the Pre-Emption House, it attracted buyers and sellers from as far away as Chicago.
The spirit of Horse Market Day will live on in front of the Pre-Emption House at Naper Settlement.
The Naperville Century Walk board of directors has commissioned a three-piece sculpture of a horse, a herding dog and a young auction runner as the 12th work of art to be featured on the Century Walk public art exhibit.
A tribute to significant Naperville people, places and events of the 20th Century, the artwork is located throughout downtown Naperville area.
The life-size bronze sculptures are expected to be installed outside the Pre-Emption House, on the corner of Aurora Avenue and Webster Street, in November 2000. A small, clay maquette of the project was unveiled Wednesday at a preview reception held at Holiday Inn Select in Naperville.
Pamela Carpenter, whose statue of the late Sun columnist Genevieve Towsley became the 11th Century Walk piece in June, will sculpt the auction runner, who traditionally was a young boy.
The finished statue will be about 5 feet tall.
The horse will be sculpted by artist Robert Buono.
It will stand about 8 feet tall and measure 9 feet long.
The crouching, barking herd dog will be sculpted by artist Torsten Muehl. It will measure 16 inches tall and 25 inches long.
"We feel this installation will provide a wonderful lead-in for the many school groups that come through the settlement," Carpenter said at the preview.
"It is already known that there were auctioneers, buyers and sellers.
However, showing the auction runner and dog expresses one of the roles that children and animals had in Naperville's history.
It portrays a part of history that our children of today will be enthusiastic about."
Back in horse market days, a good horse cost about $50. Colts, work horses, buggy horses, team horses, draft horses and stallions were lined up for inspection along Jackson Avenue, Main Street and Water Street (now Chicago Avenue). Local farmers often purchased the work-worn nags brought in from Chicago and put them out to pasture.
After the animals recovered, they frequently were sold back to the Chicago traders.
The young auction runners walked the animals to and from the stables.
Often, the buyer was apt to be taken for a ride.
To ensure he was getting an animal in good shape, he would pay the boy to run the horse up and down the Water Street hill.
At the same time, the owner of the horse would signal to the boy with a wink that he would pay him an additional 25 cents if the boy would merely walk the horse around the block.
After trading ended, the boys and herd dogs walked the horses to corrals at the train depot to be shipped to Chicago in freight cars.
"Our effort is to capture a moment in time.
A moment of interaction that speaks of the universality of a community," said Buono, who estimates it will take him almost a year to complete the project.
Muehl said the sculpture can be interpreted on a symbolic as well as historical level.
The horse, he said, represents the industry of the community, the dog its joyfulness and the boy it driving force and potential.
Pat Springer, Century Walk administrator, said the art exhibit's board chose the horse market as its next subject because of its early 20th century connection to the Pre-Emption House.
"This was an event that went on there," Springer said.
We couldn't think of anything that would have been better to put there."
Artists Pamela Carpenter, holding microphone, and Torsten Muehl unveil a miniature replica of a new sculpture that will be built for the Century Walk exhibit. The sculpture will be a collaborative effort among Carpenter, Muehl and Robert Buono.