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Five to be inducted into Naperville's Heritage Hall of Honor
By Susan Dibble | Daily Herald Staff

Land developer and community philanthropist Jim Moser contributed time, money and materials to the re-creation of the Pre-Emption House at Naper Settlement.


Courtesy of Naper Settlement

Robert Furhoff, an expert in historic interiors, has provided his expertise in the restoration of a number of the buildings at Naper Settlement.


Courtesy of Naperville Settlement

Ann Durkin Keating, a history professor at North Central College, works with Naper Settlement in a federal grant program to help teachers better teach history.


Courtesy of Naper Settlement

Lifelong Naperville resident Mary Kay Hyett, along with her husband and children, has made volunteering at Naper Settlement a family affair.


Courtesy of Naper Settlement

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Published: 7/30/2010 12:01 AM

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If you go

What: Naperville Heritage Hall of Honor induction ceremony

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1

Where: Naper Settlement, 523 S. Webster St., Naperville

Cost: Free

Info: (630) 420-6010 or

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. An award-winning, nationally recognized expert on historic interiors and paint analysis, Furhoff applied his expertise to the band shell, the Daniels House, the Meeting House, Century Memorial Chapel and the Martin Mitchell Mansion.

He discovered the true exterior color of the chapel and found early stencil patterns on the interior. During the restoration of the mansion, he conducted a paint analysis and searched for original colors and fragments of wallpaper to replicate the home's interior design. He created the band shell's color scheme based on black and while photographs.

His work could be called "post history, above-grade archaeology." Furhoff said.

"I enjoy the discovery. I enjoy finding out how things were originally," he said. "Site-specific evidence together with photographs and family records go together to build the story and create the restoration."

Now approaching retirement, Furhoff is donating to the settlement samples of carpet, wallpaper, textiles, photos and catalogs from his decorative arts study collection.

"I have a habit of collecting things because of my interest in history," he said.

Mary Kay Hyett

Lifelong Naperville resident Mary Kay Hyett married her husband, Steve, in 1969, the year the Naperville Heritage Society was founded. As the two settled into their life together, they made involvement in the heritage society part of their partnership.

The choice wasn't surprising given that Steve is an amateur local historian, known for his presentations on his historic Naperville postcard collection and on the Chicago Elgin & Aurora Railway, where the Illinois Prairie Path now runs.

"Being married to Steve, there wasn't an option even if I went kicking and screaming," Hyett said jokingly.

But actually, the entire family, including their four children, embraced involvement with Naper Settlement. Hyett said they loved volunteering at Naper Settlement's Christmas Memories when the children were small.

"That was a wonderful opportunity for our family to do something together," she said.

She and her husband helped at every Heritage Ball and assisted in the annual Antiques Show that the heritage society used to hold.

Hyett took a job with the heritage society's development office in the 1990s, helping to raise funds to build the Pre-Emption House Visitor Center.

When Joe Naper Days returned as Naper Days, Hyett volunteered as a gate captain, making sure the ticket sales went smoothly over the three-day event. Hyett misses that event, which was discontinued this year because of declining revenues.

"I hope they bring it back. Families love Naper Days," she said.

Now employed in North Central College's Office of Community Development, Hyett still finds time to volunteer at Naper Settlement's special events.

"Any time you are able to have the time to volunteer, the rewards that come back are enormous," she said.

Ann Durkin Keating

When Ann Durkin Keating started teaching history at North Central College 19 years ago, it didn't take her long to make a connection with Naper Settlement. She helped the settlement's education department develop an Underground Railroad program for schoolchildren and gave them input on other exhibits.

Keating, a co-editor of "The Encyclopedia of Chicago" and author of four books, also sends her college students to Naper Settlement to do research and serve internships.

"Naper Settlement has helped me provide a local context," Keating said. "It's a wonderful place for students to do research projects."

Keating is now serving as the principal historian for a four-year Teaching American History federal grant that brings together museums, K-12 schools, and higher education to teach teachers how to teach history.

Naper Settlement staff member Donna Sack, who wrote and manages the $1 million grant, said the program benefits a consortium of local school districts including Indian Prairie Unit District 204, Naperville Unit District 203, Aurora school districts 129 and 131, and Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200.

Teachers from those districts have the opportunity to take a weeklong summer class, go on an annual historic tour and participate in workshops during the school year.

"We've reached about 45 teachers," Keating said. "It's been a lot of fun."

Keating, who is in charge of the content of the grant program, said the first year focused on the Civil War era, the second year on the early 1900s and this year on the 1960s. The last year may include a southern civil rights tour.

Sack said the program has helped teachers understand the significance of primary source material that may come in the form of old buildings, museum collections or the music of the 1960s.

"Ann is a very special historian in that she really understands the connection between the K-12 community, the higher education community and the museum community," Sack said. "I think teachers in our program have come to understand history in a different way than when they started."

USG Corporation

Hal Pendexter, retired vice president-administration for USG Corporation, said it was his wife's involvement in Naper Settlement that led to the company becoming the heritage society's largest corporate contributor.

The building products manufacturing company is headquartered in Chicago, but the Pendexters had moved to Naperville where Marcia's interest in history led her to the settlement to volunteer and later to become a part-time employee.

"I started doing some checking. I realized we had a ton of USG employees and their families living in the Western Suburbs," Pendexter said.

Pendexter joined the heritage society's Resource Committee 18 years ago and has been a board member for the last four years. Under his influence, USG became a benefactor of the museum village.

When the Pre-Emption was being built in the 1990s, USG contributed building materials and the use of a distribution center to have materials delivered to the site. The corporation was one of the original sponsors of the settlement's Old-Fashioned Circus and Naper Days, and now sponsors Naperville Summer Nights.

Pendexter said he has spoken with high school and college students who still remember their visits to Naper Settlement as schoolchildren.

"It does make an impression on them," he said. "The whole aspect of preserving the history of this area is important to us."

Chris Rosenthal, vice president-human resources for L&W Supply Corporation, a subsidiary of USG, said he joined the heritage society board, where he serves as assistant treasurer, after learning about it from Pendexter, his longtime mentor. Many USG employees and their families take advantage of Naper Settlement's programs and events and volunteer at the museum village, he said.

"This is a great way for our employees to give back to their communities as well as build on their own skill sets that prepare them for bigger roles at USG," Rosenthal said.

Both men look forward to Naper Settlement pursuing its 25-year master plan that would take its preservation of history more fully into the 20th century.

"The whole idea is we want to be a premier cultural institution in the state of Illinois," Pendexter said.