UPDATE May 8: A dedication and ribbon cutting is slated at 6PM, Thurs., May 8, with Mayor George Pradel officiating, an event that will be followed by tours. New research has uncovered evidence that this building, known as the Murray House, was actually used as a commercial building in downtown Naperville. From 1857-1867, the building served as the law office of Merritt Hobson, a member of one of Naperville’s pioneer families.
Feb. 28 Post: The Naperville Heritage Society hosted its second in a series of Heritage Farm Dinners on Feb. 27 as an engaging way to introduce a new interpretation for one of its historic buildings to longtime supporters of Naper Settlement, the city’s outdoor history museum. “A Peek into the White House” promised a sampling of recipes from the 1908 White House Cook Book and as well as a tour of the white Murray Building.
The special occasion was to highlight three years of research that will give visitors to Naper Settlement the opportunity to experience the Murray House as one of the city’s earliest law offices.
After 40 years as one of the featured residences interpreted at Naper Settlement, the Murray House now will be known as the “Murray Building,” noted Bryan Ogg, Curator of Research.
Following a brief introduction with a Power Point presentation depicting the growth and development of early Naperville, Ogg invited guests to visit the Murray Building, located just steps from the Pre-Emption House where the dinner was to be served.
Built in 1842 and moved to Naper Settlement in 1971, the Murray House is listed in the Library of Congress as a historic landmark.
Through extensive research of primary sources, Ogg uncovered quite a different story from what had been originally presented. His latest research reveals an array of details about the historic home that surely will attract interest in the house, its former occupants and ownership when visitor tours begin again in April.
The house originally stood in the center of town at 215 S. Main Street and Ogg used images of advertisements in old Naperville newspapers to note the Murray Building was often referenced as a local landmark on the printed page. According to Ogg, the residence formerly appears to have been a commercial building as well as a law office.
Folks in attendance were invited to tour the Murray Building where its interior is now interpreted as a law office, graced with elaborately-designed wooden desks with hidden filing compartments and other furnishings that likely were crafted in Naperville.
After Ogg’s tour with enlightening banter, dinner was prepared for 40 guests who filled three large tables set with vintage china and glassware in the tavern at the Pre-Emption House.
Next month, the Naperville Heritage Society’s Treasures Magazine April-October 2014, will feature an article about the changes to showcase the use of the building as the (Merritt) Hobson Law Office.
Terrell Cole, Executive Chef at Naper Settlement and owner of Dark Horse Pastries, created the delicious 4-course menu using recipes selected from the 1908 White House Cook Book. His sumptuous selection was prepared with seafood and meats from the butcher at Casey’s Foods that went well with wines from Wente Vineyards, two sponsors of the dinner.
For starters, guests were served smoked ham and white bean soup, fresh coleslaw with shredded crab and bite-sized banana cornbread.
Salads included red skin potato salad, wild mushroom salad drizzled with sundried tomato oil.
Whether roasted pork loin, white rice, candied apples and roasted pecans; herb encrusted white fish over oven-roasted tomatoes and steamed spinach; or chicken croquettes, oven-roasted beets and glazed carrots, every entrée surpassed and complemented the other.
To top off the dinner, Chef Cole, known for his specialty desserts, served two delicious recipes from the cookbook: cinnamon raisin bread pudding and banana cream pie.
Established in 1969, Naperville Settlement is an award-winning 12-acre outdoor history museum accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The beautifully landscaped property is home to a collection of 30 historical buildings, including a one-room school house, Century Memorial Chapel, several 19th-century enterprises and various structures from the heart of Naperville, Illinois.
Unlike the grand Martin Mitchell Mansion, most structures at Naper Settlement, including the Murray Building, were relocated to the site from their original locations and refurbished in a style befitting their era.
Depicting the time period from 1831 when Naperville was first settled through the early 20th century, visitors are welcomed to experience bygone days with hands-on activities and well-designed exhibits.
Tours are led by museum educators, attired in period costume, to help interpret the outdoor village from pioneer days through the turn of the century. What sets Naper Settlement apart from other outdoor history museums is its range in historic architecture from the simplicity of a log house to the Greek Revival elements of the Murray Building to the opulence of a Victorian mansion. And, of course, many interesting citizens such as Robert Murray were attracted to the farming community along the banks of the DuPage River.
Naper Settlement, founded in 1969, is situated on land bequeathed to the City of Naperville in 1936 by Caroline Martin Mitchell.
Editor’s Note: Bryan Ogg is a contributing columnist to Positively Naperville. Many columns reflecting his research are saved in PN’s archive.
Also note that from 5:30PM to 9PM, Wed., June 4, “Take Back the County Seat” will be celebrated in the Pre-Emption House. The public event is a chance to have fun while learning about another happening with shenanigans that helped shape local history back in 1868. Tickets are $68 each, all inclusive for libations and food provided by Dark Horse Pastries.