Hotels in Holland’s Directory
The 1886 Holland’s Directory lists three hotels in Naperville: American House, Pre-Emption House, and Washington House. All of them were on Main Street, just a stone’s throw from each other.
Jacob Keller emigrated from Germany to Naperville in 1851 and, at first, worked for Stenger Brewery. He eventually became a saloonkeeper on Main Street around 1867, but he had grander plans. In 1872, he built a hotel on the northeast corner of Washington Street and Jefferson Avenue which he called, naturally, Washington House. According to Holland’s, it was a “fine brick building,” but “this, not being to his mind, he sold, at a great sacrifice, in 1872." Keller moved his business back to the Main Street location in 1879, keeping the name, Washington House. The hotel was also designated as the township polling place.
American House was started by B. F. Russell in 1875 as an addition to the livery business he had been running since 1869. Russell’s livery offered ten horses and twelve different kinds of wagons for customers to rent and provided his hotel with a particular advantage in transportation. As a bonus for American House guests, Russell ferried travelers to and from the train station for free. He also ran a taxi-type service to “carry citizens to any part of the village for ten cents.”The Pre-Emption House had the oldest history. It was originally built in 1834 by George Laird and had a series of managers. Henry Ulrich was the proprietor in 1886, sometime after his service in the Civil War. While the name Urich continues to appear in Naperville history, any relationship to Henry is unclear and Henry himself seems to be gone from town. He and his wife, Sarah, are buried in Indiana and a son, Dr. Everett Ulrich, listed Indiana as his residence when he married in 1915.
Interestingly, there are also a number of advertisements for hotels in Aurora, Nebraska, and even as far away as London! Apparently, folks did a good bit of travel in the 1880s and this was their version of hotels.com for planning purposes.
Even though the American House and Washington House hotels seem to have paid to advertise in the Directory, according to Holland’s write-up, there was “no hotel in Naperville, whose exterior appearance, might be called, in a modern sense, first-class.” Well, that seems a little rude, don’t you think?