The pages of this publication are filled with photographs that attempt to capture the essence of Galena. While they are wonderful images, they only suggest the grace and beauty of the 19th Century structures that anchor our Main Street and give such pleasing forms to our rugged hills. To full appreciate the charm of this community that attracts over a million visitors a year, you have to visit and experience Galena for yourself. If you come once, you'll come again and again, and eventually, you'll want to live here.
Dick Auman Mayor
Welcome to Galena!
Thanks for your interest in our community and the Tri-State Area. Galena was founded in 1826 and gained early preeminence as a center for lead mining. Restored homes and commercial buildings are the enduring evidence of that early prosperity and give us a tremendous sense of history.
Today, Galena offers residents, businesses and visitors a wealth of services and a unique quality of life. Business and industry enjoy a special vitality. And, an exciting downtown beautification project that will take us through the next century is in the planning stages now.
This Community Profile provides an introduction to our city and way of life. If you are planning a new home, starting a business or considering the relocation of an industry, you will find this Profile a valuable source of information. However, you need to visit us to experience the natural beauty of our wooded hills, our recreation opportunities and cultural offerings. Then you'll understand why business professionals from across the Midwest are attracted to this place.
We gratefully acknowledge the advertisers in this guide for their generous support, and encourage you to recognize them. The Galena Area Chamber of Commerce is a reliable source of community information and a dependable resource for business referrals. Feel free to call us anytime for advice on our hometown.
Choose quality of life. Choose Galena.
For the Chamber
Galena touches the hearts of residents and visitors in very special ways. There is the strong presence of history in the city's hundreds of homes and buildings that date back as far as the early decades of the nineteenth century. Carefully restored by owners, the buildings house quaint boutiques, quality stores and services, and cozy restaurants. Many of the city's most beautiful homes are now Bed and Breakfasts, where the grandeur of the Opulent Era is an ever present reality.
Galena shopping delights all. More than one million visitors stroll the two miles of narrow sidewalks on Main Street seeking quality gifts and souvenirs, priceless antiques, and chic apparel. They pause for lunch or dinner in the downtown business district's variety of family, ethnic, and gourmet restaurants.
Although 85 percent of Galena is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places, not everyone lives in a mid-nineteen century home. Grandly fashioned executive style homes and mid-size single family homes surround the historic section of the city and extend into the countryside. There are townhomes and attractive rental apartments, as well. About five miles away is The Galena Territory, an immense development of luxury homes built around four outstanding golf courses.
Known for its exceptional education programs, facilities, instructors, and staff, the Galena School District assures high quality education for the city's youngsters. Nearby are several colleges and universities.
Quality health care is provided by a small in-town hospital and by two large medical centers in nearby Dubuque, Iowa, 15 miles away.
Galena residents enjoy a wide range of recreational opportunities in city and county parks, the Galena Arts and Recreation Center, and in a variety of privately operated sports and recreation facilities.
Business is welcome in Galena; commerce in the downtown business district and along the U.S. Highway 20 approaches to the community, and industry in a large and picturesque industrial park on the city's far west side.
Historic Galena is delightfully charming, alluringly beautiful, and genuinely friendly. It's the perfect place for business and for living.
In a unique way, history created Galena then went away, leaving the community fixed somewhere in time. Its many mid-nineteenth century homes and buildings show few signs of age and are meticulously cared for by current residents and owners.
The land surrounding Galena is also unique. The glaciers that plowed their way over much of North America during the Ice Age left the area of northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin untouched. Thus, the hills and valleys of today are as they were eons ago.
In the late 1600's French explorers found Sac and Fox Indians mining lead in the high hills around Galena. France's Nicholas Perrot visited the Indian mines in 1690 and established trading posts in the area. In the early 1800's, the U.S. Congress established the Upper Mississippi Lead Mine District and provided for leasing land containing minerals. In 1818, John and Tyler Armstrong built the first permanent home in what is now Galena. That year, Illinois was admitted to the Union. A year later, a British interpreter at Prairie du Chien moved into the then abandoned Armstrong cabin.
In 1826, with a population numbering 150, Galena was organized as a town. The name chosen is the technical term for sulphide of lead. Town lots and streets were laid out, a post office was built, a school opened, the first church services were held, and the community's first newspaper, The Miners Journal, began publication.
The government encouraged miners and others to settle in the community, but granted permits to occupy and improve lots with the condition that rights to the land would be surrendered with 30 days notice. More than 300 people signed up for lots. Their status as temporary owners did not change until 1838.
In 1826, the John Dowling House was built. Today, it is Galena's oldest structure. At the time, there 195 homes, warehouses, and shops in the city and another 46 were under construction. The population was 800, but swelled to 5,000 when mining centers in the immediate vicinity were included. In 1834, the Galena Gazette was established as a daily newspaper. The community received its charter as a city in 1841.
By the 1850's, Galena was the busiest port on the Mississippi between St. Paul and St. Louis. Its population was now 14,000. In the decade of the 1850's, Galena saw many changes. New churches and banks were established, Marine Hospital was built, DeSoto House was completed and would soon become a center of social activity, Galena shipped its record amount of lead in 1845 (54,494,850 pounds), the Galena branch of the Illinois Central Railroad was built from Freeport to the city, gas street lights were installed, and a freight depot was constructed. During this period, Abraham Lincoln spoke from the balcony of the DeSoto House, followed soon afterwards by Stephen A. Douglas.
In 1860, Ulysses S. Grant arrived to work in his father's leather goods store. After gaining fame in the Civil War Grant returned to Galena in 1865 where a group of citizens presented the General with a handsome furnished home. He returned to the home several times during his Presidency and again before he died of throat cancer. The Grant Home is now a state historic site.
Today, much of Galena is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Main Street remains the narrow street it was in the mid-1800's. Its buildings, like finely dressed old ladies, shelter numerous specialty shops, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants that appeal to the more than a million visitors who come to Galena annually. The era of lead mining is passed, the era of tourism has just begun.
Galena is situated in western Jo Daviess County, the county that forms Illinois' northwestern corner, bordering on Wisconsin and the Mississippi River. Untouched by Ice Age glaciers, the county is a mix of high hills and secluded valleys.
Two principal highways feed into Galena. From the east, two-lane U.S. Highway 20 follows a winding high ridge before descending into the Galena River valley and the historic community of Galena. Route 20 continues west to East Dubuque and the City of Dubuque, Iowa, about 15 miles away.
State Highway 84 extends northward from Carroll County and joins U.S. 20 southeast of Galena, then, northwest of the city, Route 84 separates and continues northward into Wisconsin.
In addition, a system of winding county highways links the city with many of the small communities in Jo Daviess County.
Efforts are underway to make U.S. 20 four lanes between Galena and Freeport and Galenians are actively involved in the considerations and planning through a Joint Work Group. In the same way, Galena is seeking to reestablish passenger rail service from Chicago through Galena to Dubuque.
Interstate bus service is available in the city and local bus transportation is provided by Jo Daviess County Transit. It offers Flex Routes which run five days a week. Senior citizens and other residents of Galena have access to curb to curb bus service with advanced reservations required. The county also operates a Medical Transportation Service for seniors and those with disabilities. Reservations are required.
Two private firms operate rubber-tired trolleys that carry visitors on sightseeing routes through the community's historic district.
Commercial airline service is available at Dubuque Regional Airport, 20 miles west of Galena, with a dozen arrivals and departures daily. Several charter services are also available in Dubuque. Twenty-five miles to the east of Galena is Apple Canyon Airport, used by private aircraft.
Several interstate and regional trucking companies serve the shipping needs of the community's business and industry.
The Galena River flows into the Mississippi River, approximately four miles away. Schubert's Landing, in Galena, serves pleasure craft that travel the river from the Mississippi. Several other public marinas are located in the Illinois cities of East Dubuque and Hanover. The nearest commercial barge facility is 10 miles from Galena.[ top of page ]
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