Top Historic Sites in Galena

Along with its many golf and ski resorts, Galena, IL, is well-known for its rich history and 19th century architecture. It was the home to about 10 different Civil War generals, including Union general and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant. This popular tourist destination, seated in the northwest corner of the Land of Lincoln, welcomes about one million guests a year, and it's no surprise - it offers both the serenity of rural living and the excitement of an old-fashioned city. Make your way to a Galena bed and breakfast in this charming locale for your next vacation, relax in one of the many hotels, and make sure to visit these top historic sites.

The Home of Ulysses S. Grant

Galena Historic Site

When General Ulysses S. Grant returned to his hometown of Galena after victory in the Civil War, the townspeople awarded him with this home on Bouthillier Street. Built in 1859, the brick house is designed in the model of an Italianate, adorned with eaves, gallery-style balconies and rectilinear patterns. While Grant did not spend much time in this house, he did use it as a sort of second home and visited regularly. Now managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, it's been turned into the U.S. Grant Home State Historic Site and is open to the public for touring.

The Old Blacksmith Shop

Opened in 1807, this authentic blacksmith shop now serves as a museum but still houses working forges. It's chock full of its original equipment and tools, as well as forged items like dinner bells and iron hooks. A historian is on site to guide you through the museum, and real-life blacksmiths perform demonstrations. On your way out, stop by the gift shop to pick up a handmade keepsake.

Washburne House State Historic Site

This building, located on Third Street, was the home of Elihu Washburne, a French ambassador, U.S. congressman and attorney who also served as adviser to Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln during their presidencies. The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency now administers tours and manages this house, which is considered one of the city's grandest - built in 1845, it takes on the Greek Revival style, featuring large pillars and a front portico that looks like a temple.

The Dowling House

Make your way over to Diagonal Street and step into the city's oldest home. When it was built in 1826, Galena was known as the world's lead-mining capital and was the state's wealthiest city. The town touted its prosperity by building sturdy structures like the Dowling House. Comprised of limestone, the home is still filled with 19th century artifacts. Keep your eye out for evidence of fur trading - the house was once the city's only trading post.

Belvedere Mansion

Erected in 1857, this majestic mansion was the home of famed politician and merchant J. Russell Jones. Inside, you'll find Victorian-style furniture and decor, as well as the original green drapes from the movie 'Gone with the Wind.' Outside, you'll be surrounded by beautiful gardens designed and maintained by a local landscape architect to imitate the formal country gardens that were popular at the time the mansion was built.

The Old Stockade

This log building, which lies on the cobblestone path of Perry Street, was built in response to the Blackhawk War of 1832. Citizens built a stockade in preparation for an Indian attack, erecting it around the home of Amos and Sophia Gear Farrar. It served as a refuge for local children and women until the war ended, at which point Sophia was widowed and continued to live alone in the home. Since then, it's been owned by four other women and has been turned into a museum that's open for Saturday or scheduled tours.