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Pre-Emption House
Pre-Emption House ExteriorEstablishment
Under the Pre-Emption Act of 1834, which allowed settlers in this area to claim parcels of land at $1.25 an acre, Joseph Naper acquired a quarter section of land from the government that later became a part of the original town of Naperville. Naper paid $200 for his 160 acres. George Laird erected the Pre-Emption House on the northeast corner of Main and Water Streets to serve as the town's first hotel. This Greek Revival building underwent changes in proprietorship as well as numerous interior and exterior alterations during its existence, including various additions to the original structure, replacement of the flooring throughout the first floor and several exterior color schemes.

Tavern & Other Uses
The Pre-Emption House served as the meeting place for official county business until a courthouse was built. In addition, local hotheads cooled off in the tavern after they threatened violence to Wheaton residents, who secretly removed the county's records from Naperville to their town in 1868. According to local oral history, Abraham Lincoln once gave an impromptu speech from the building's roof.

The Pre-Emption House is commonly claimed to have been the oldest continuously operated tavern in the State of Illinois and west of the Alleghenies, having functioned as a hotel and tavern until 1925, with the tavern remaining operational thereafter. The structure was razed in 1946 to make way for construction of a new building for the Cromer Motor Company.

Reconstruction
In 1991, the Naperville Heritage Society broke ground for its most ambitious reconstruction. The Pre-Emption House stands again, now at Naper Settlement, where it once more serves as the town's meeting place as the new visitor center to the museum village. The Pre-Emption House is also the orientation and administrative facility for the museum complex.

The reconstruction of the Pre-Emption House is based on the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) architectural drawings and documentation from 1934, including indications of its prior structural elements. HABS was the first major step taken by the federal government toward the cataloging of historic structures throughout the United States. The federal government established the survey in 1934 to create a permanent, graphic record of our American architectural heritage, as well as to provide work for unemployed architects, draftsmen and photographers during the Great Depression. HABS continues today and is complemented with a division recording the country's technical and industrial past.

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