Throughout this year, we’ll take a look at some of the homes and businesses featured in the 1874 Atlas Map of DuPage County. First up is the hardware emporium of James. J. Hunt which was located on the northwest corner of Washington and Van Buren, where the restaurant Catch 35 is now.
Hunt was born in Pennsylvania and learned there to be a blacksmith. He came to Naperville with his young family in 1844 and started by working in another man’s plow shop. Within a couple of years, however, Hunt opened his own blacksmith shop and also ran a livery business.
Hunt spent part of the Civil War serving as a captain and then a major in Illinois and in Pennsylvania, but at the same time, he also launched a small scale hardware business, presumably operated by his wife and pre-teen sons who remained in Naperville. After the war, all his efforts went into that business, making Hunt & Son Hardware a downtown staple until his retirement in 1893.
During his years in Naperville, Hunt served the community as sheriff, fire marshal, justice of the peace, and treasurer. Hunt was also dedicated to Euclid Lodge, the local Masonic organization, holding meetings above his shop and serving as Master of the Lodge eight times.
A story was recorded about how Hunt was able to cool down a clash between some Naperville residents and their more recently-arrived German neighbors during his tenure as a police magistrate. Apparently, while the town was celebrating Independence Day, a dispute arose which “had been bottled up and escaped from such confinements down the throats and thence into the brains of a few otherwise ‘real good fellows.’”
Hunt held positions as a village trustee and village president during the 1860s and 1870s. Then in late 1889, Naperville’s citizens began the process of incorporating from a Village to a City. The vote passed in March of 1890 and Hunt was elected the first mayor of the City of Naperville in April.