012. Pre-Emption House Visitor Center: The Tavern

Picture postcard of Naperville's Market Days, postmarked 1909, crowded with horses and wagons
Postcard of Naperville's Market Days, postmarked 1909
Nathan Allen made this dedication to his fellow settlers from the ridge pole of builder George Laird’s newly constructed Pre-Emption House: “This place, once a wilderness of savage and owl, Where the red man once roamed and the prairie wolf howled; This house now erected the place to adorn, To shelter the living and babes yet unborn, We’ll call it Pre-emption, a law that’s complete, For the use of George Laird, who says he will treat.” There was much to be celebrated with the passage of the Pre-Emption Act, and the new landowners found many occasions to kick up their heels—where else but at the Pre-Emption House? Whiskey was only 20 cents a gallon, so there was plenty to go around. Women were not allowed in the tavern. They congregated in the dining room, planning galas so grand that they attracted Chicagoans. “My, the dances we used to have there,” recalled an early settler. “The drivers would come in from their wagons, haul off their big boots and dance in their stocking feet. Dance all night!”