Naperville city council grants Old Nichols Library monument status after months of heated debate


Mary Szymanski

LUCK OF THE LIBRARY: Naperville’s city council voted 6-3 to grant monument status to Old Nichols Library. This protects the building, located at 110 S. Washington St., from being altered or demolished.

Noelle Schwarz, Profiles Editor

The Naperville city council voted on Sept. 19 to make Old Nichols Library a monument after outcries from citizens. The 6-3 vote now protects the building from being demolished or cosmetically altered without the approval of the historical society.

Dwight Avram bought the property last year from Truth Lutheran Church, which had owned it since 1995. He had made plans to reconstruct the library into a four-story building that would provide retail and office space.

Those plans were halted when two Naperville residents, Charlie Wilkins and Barb Hower, submitted a form requesting the old Nichols Library become a monument, therefore preventing it from being torn down.

“It’s very important to me,” Becky Anderson, Naperville Councilwoman and owner of Anderson’s Bookshop, said. “It’s been there for over a 120 years. I grew up in that building. I used to spend hours in that library as did my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.”

The library was built in the late 1800s by James Nichols, a German immigrant who wished to convey the impact books and education could have on others’ lives, just as they did on his own. Anderson, along with many in Naperville, value the historical significance of the building.

“It’s [designed] by a well-known architect, M. E. Bell, and we were lucky to get it,” Anderson said.

However, Avram disagrees. In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, he said, “What has to be understood in this situation is that an owner’s property rights are at stake.”

The Central Times reached out to Avram, but he was unwilling to be interviewed. Instead, he sent the CT a list of FAQs. Both the questions and answers were written by Avram.

“We think restricting the use of the property after the sale is unfair,” Avram said in a reply to one of the FAQs. “The city sold the property as surplus years ago, and seems to have no desire to own, repair or maintain it today.”

Many students at Naperville Central are unbothered by the conflict.

“I don’t really have an opinion one way or another,” junior Rachel Gerami said.