011. Pre-Emption House Visitor Center

Travelers heading west from Chicago by wagon or stage coach would spend three days rattling over 28 miles of rutted roads before stopping in Naper's Settlement. When they did stop, the Pre-Emption House offered a bed, breakfast and a drink for travelers, as well as feed and stables for their horses–all for 35 cents. For many pioneers, Naper's Settlement was not a stopover but a destination in itself. The Pre-Emption Act allowed settlers to reserve a piece of property until a legal claim could be processed and grant them title. A steady stream of easterners and immigrants traveled west to claim land which sold for just $1.25 an acre. So important was this piece of legislation to the settlers of Naper's Settlement that they named their first hotel and tavern the Pre-Emption House. During its long history, the Pre-Emption House served as a gathering place to conduct business, as well as a place to celebrate with a dance or social gathering. As one settler put it, the Pre-Emption House was “the biggest thing between Chicago and the Mississippi.” The original structure was demolished in the 1940s. You’re now standing in the re-created Pre-Emption House, opened to the public in 1997.