Naperville's Stewards of the Past Heritage Hall of Honor Inducts Five New Members

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan Dibble

By Susan Dibble

The late developer and philanthropist Jim Moser did a lot to make Naperville the city it is.

Not one to turn down a request for help, the former owner of Moser Lumber and CEO of the development company Moser Enterprises contributed to many community projects over the years.

Some involvements may have been a matter of good business and politics, but other projects truly excited him.

The construction of the Pre-Emption House Visitor Center at Naper Settlement was one of them, said his son, Mitch Moser.

"He absolutely loved it. He loved the whole concept of the Pre-Emption House," Moser said. "When the idea of it came to life, he was giddy."

After years of planning, the Pre-Emption House Visitor Center opened in 1998, the year Jim Moser lost his battle with cancer.

Moser will be one of five inductees to the Naperville Heritage Society's Heritage Hall of Honor at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, at Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville. The yearly recognition honors people and organizations that have made significant contributions to preserving the history of Naperville.

Jim Moser

Jim Moser was a lifelong resident of Naperville, who returned to the community after serving in the Army to work in the family-owned Moser Lumber. He became the owner and CEO of the company in 1969, the same year the Naperville Heritage Society was founded.

Moser supported the effort to preserve Naperville's past. He and his brother, Harold, donated materials for the bandstand at the 19th century outdoor museum village.

Then when plans for re-creating the Pre-Emption House were discussed in the 1980s, Moser donated time, materials and finances to make that happen as well.

The storied history of the Pre-Emption House appealed to his father, Mitch Moser said. The original Pre-Emption House was Naperville's first hotel and tavern and the only one west of Chicago when it was built in 1834.

History was made there. Local lore had it that Abraham Lincoln once gave a speech from the Pre-Emption House roof. The building served at various times as a courthouse, sample room for local breweries and marketplace for horse trading.

Jim Moser had heard the stories about the Pre-Emption House's past from his own father, Mitch Moser said.

"It was a famous place," Mitch said. "He (Jim Moser) thought it was a tremendous addition to the downtown area."

Moser made many other contributions to Naperville that are better known than his support for the Pre-Emption House. He established Moser Enterprises Inc., a land development company, in 1986 and built many of the city's subdivisions. A plaque given when he was named the recipient of Naperville's first Outstanding Citizen Award in 1996 said that he was known by many as "The Man who built Naperville."

A founding father of the Naperville Riverwalk, Moser served as the first chairman of the Riverwalk Commission. He helped establish Safety Town and bring the DuPage Children's Museum to Naperville.

Moser wasn't one to toot his own horn, though. His daughter, Kate Ontko, said she wasn't living in Naperville at the time the planning for the Pre-Emption House was going on and her father never said much about it to her. But that was typical of him, she said.

"We found so much about the good deeds

he did later," she said.

Robert Furhoff

Robert Furhoff was just starting his Chicago business, Robert A. Furhoff, Restoration of Interiors, in 1977 when he learned about the Naperville Heritage Society's work in creating Naper Settlement. He wrote the organization a letter asking if the heritage society could use his expertise in researching the interior of the Paw Paw Post Office, which had just been moved to the site.

That was the beginning of a fruitful business association that lasted more than three decades. …