The many sights, sounds, and scents of midtown Galena welcome visitors. The sweet scent of floral gardens mixes with the rich aromas that waft enticingly from a dozen or more downtown restaurants and whet appetites. The sounds of people chattering in the shops and on the narrow sidewalks of Main Street mix with the happy music of area choruses and bands performing in a downtown park. The all-around sights of classic mid-nineteenth century architecture mix with downtown shop windows displaying a wide variety of gifts, antiques, apparel, and souvenirs. Such is Galena.
A full 85 percent of Galena is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, so there is much to see and visit. History's Galena legacy is an amazing array of elegantly restored homes and structures dating back to the early decades of the nineteenth century. The Dowling House, built in 1826 of native limestone, stands in the heart of downtown. The highly ornate Belvedere Mansion invites visitors to its 22 immaculately furnished rooms. The Old Market House State Historic Site, also in the heart of the community, is 150-plus years old and was, in its day, the focal point of Galena life. Today, it houses exhibits that depict Galena at the height of its prosperity.
The home of Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero and 18th President of the United States, still stands in Galena. Presented to him by the citizenry in 1865, the restored home is as it appeared during the postwar period and the Grant Presidency. Approaching Galena from the east on Rt. 20, visitors will find a marked parking area that offers convenient access to Grant's Home. A 1850's log cabin stands at the edge of the parking lot, alongside the pathway to Grant's home.
The DeSoto House Hotel, which opened in 1855 and saluted as the "best hotel west of New York City," remains open today. Extensively renovated in 1980, the DeSoto House continues to offer guest rooms, fine restaurants and lounges, meeting rooms, and an elegant ballroom. Many of the city's fine old buildings and homes have become Bed and Breakfasts, giving visitors the opportunity to experience Galena in a most exquisite manner.
A few miles to the east of Galena is Eagle Ridge Inn and Resort and Longhollow Point Inn and Resort. These luxury resorts are adjacent to The Galena Territory and its four world-class golf courses.
For many visitors, Galena serves as a base for seeing all of Jo Daviess County, especially its towns, like Scales Mound located just north of the Stagecoach Trail and listed in total in the National Register of Historic Places, and Stockton where the Kraft brothers began their cheese business that grew into the Kraft General Foods Company. Much of the Swiss cheese marketed by the company is produced in Stockton.
Galena, and Jo Daviess County, touches the senses of visitors and delights them with its myriad of pleasures.
To live in a home that has stood for more than 100 years is to feel the strong presence of the past in the comfort of today. Galena offers many such opportunities. Street after street surrounding the downtown area is lined with homes that date well into the nineteenth century. Grand Victorian Era mansions and homes in Italianate, Queen Anne, Greek Revival, Federal, and other architectural styles are numerous in Galena. These historic dwellings are found clinging to the steep hillside above Main Street, and on the hillside across the river.
Many who own these fine old homes have opened them to guests as Bed and Breakfast establishments, thus intimately sharing their historic treasures with others. Typical of these homes turned Bed and Breakfast is one built by a steamship captain in 1836 that offers three bedrooms with private baths and a detached cottage. Among the more unusual B&Bs is a commercial building built in 1867 as a bakery, store, and hotel. It was a favorite gathering place for Galenians and for area farmers bringing produce to market.
Other grandly styled edifices have become condominiums. One is the city's old high school. Set high above the city's southern area, its clock tower reaching skyward above its two and one-half stories, the newly remodeled structure now provides stunning views for residents. Unchanged on the outside, it remains harmonious with its Victorian styled neighbors.
While Galena has preserved its history in brick, stone, and frame, it has not stopped growing. Beyond its historic area are homes that spread from the early years of the twentieth century to the contemporary homes of today. There are American Foursquares and Cape Cod homes from the 1920's and small ranch homes and split levels from the years immediately following World War II. On the city's west side, off Route 20, a cluster of new townhomes is developing. Called Shadow Bluff, the townhomes are perched on a bluff overlooking the rolling landscape of Galena.
In the countryside, along roads like Blackjack Road, there are new contemporary, executive style homes. Some stand alone, viewing the rolling landscape from high atop a hill. Others line the curving streets of subdivisions like Westchester Trails.
Rental apartments are also part of contemporary Galena. Among these are Victoria Heights Apartments, a collection of single story buildings, and Galena Square Apartments, resembling a row of townhomes.
About five minutes east of Galena, in the forested and hilly countryside, is the Galena Territory, a huge development of spacious contemporary homes surrounding four world-class golf courses. There are enormous executive-style homes set apart from others on acres of land, mid-size single family homes on large acre-plus lots, small weekend/vacation cottages, and condos and townhomes. All residents of the Galena Territory enjoy eye-pleasing vistas from wood decks that are a part of every home.
Few are the communities that boast the breadth of Galena's unique lifestyles.
Culture finds a comfortable home in Galena. Much of the city is a living museum of American architecture from throughout most of the nineteenth century. This unique environment has attracted thousands of artists, photographers, craftsmen, and other talented people, many of whom have remained to make their homes in Galena's historic houses and to ply their art. As a result, the city boasts 19 art galleries and studios in the downtown area and in the artist's homes. At least a dozen more galleries are located in other communities in Jo Daviess County. "First Friday" gatherings of the Galena Artists Guild, held on the first Friday of each month, is a festive showing of the work of one of their members.
The annual Galena Arts Festival is fast approaching its 30th year. Held in the city's Grant Park, the event is a juried art show of original arts and fine crafts. More than 110 artists and crafters display their work at this popular show.
The picturesque character of downtown Galena makes a desirable stage for the performing arts. Concerts by area instrumental groups, vocalists, and choirs are heard frequently in a small downtown park and in other locations in the downtown area, like the Galena Trolley Depot Theater.
A highlight on the Galena calendar of events is the annual Halloween Parade through the downtown. Hundreds of local families parade in costume to the delight of all, paraders and curbside viewers. But, the most magical night of the year is The Night of Luminaria when thousands of lighted luminaria trace the Galena River front levee, steps, and hillsides throughout the city. The lighting of candles begins at 6:00 p.m., after which the entire area seems to glow.
Galena's Main Street Players is a not-for-profit company of thespians who have been performing musicals, comedies, dramas, and mysteries for 13 years. The venue for their productions varies. They appear in an historic local church, in Galena's Turner Hall, and at the impressive Sinsinawa Mound Theater, in nearby Sinsinawa, Wisconsin.
The Turner Hall is also the setting for concerts by the Galena Chamber Ensemble. The Ensemble is dedicated to bringing high quality classical music to Galena and the area. The group performs four concerts during its season. All concerts feature solists from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
"Tea and Tarts with the General's Lady" is a regular monthly feature at the historic DeSoto House Hotel in downtown Galena. An actress portrays Julia Dent Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant, is a program of wit, gossip, history, and fashion. The "General's Lady" performs in lavish costuming from Galena's Opulent Era.
The Galena Public Library, on Bench Street, is another cultural focal point in the community. With an annual circulation of 35,000, it has 23,000 volumes on its shelves, with multiple copies of popular titles. In addition, the library houses more than 3,000 audiovisual material, including books on tape, video and audio cassettes, and CDS. It subscribes to more than 80 periodicals and newspapers.
The library conducts preschool story hours and summer reading programs for children. It also has an adult book discussion group. As a member of the Northern Illinois Library Systems, Galena library patrons have access to materials in more than 100 libraries.
In addition to local cultural events, events in the Galena area attract residents. Examples are the Spring Fling in Elizabeth, which includes stagecoach rides and an arts and crafts show; the annual Stagecoach Trail Festival held simultaneously in the village of Scales Mound, Apple River, Warren, Nora, and Lena, a celebration of Native American and pioneer history; Hanover Days, at Hanover, featuring loads of food and fun; the Gramercy Park Blues & Jazz Festival in Kehl Harbor in East Dubuque; the Jo Daviess County Fair (now in its 138th year) at Warren; and the annual Willow Folk Music Festival held five miles south of Stockton featuring more than 100 amateur and professional bluegrass and country singers and acoustic musicians.
In Dubuque, Iowa, only 15 miles to the northwest, Galena residents can enjoy concerts by the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra, a summertime Jazz Festival, frequent outdoor jazz concerts, an arts festival, the city's annual Catfish Festival, and numerous other events.
Residents and visitors enjoy the Galena area's exceptional opportunities for recreation. Included is everything from an early summer triathlon/duathlon competition to golf at any of five challenging public courses.
The Galena Triathlon and Duathlon is held at the end of May. The Triathlon begins with a 700-yard swim at Apple Canyon Lake. For Duathlon participants, it's a two-mile run. Then both Triathlon and Duathlon athletes ride their bikes for 17 miles over the winding roads through the area's hilly countryside. At Recreation Park, on the outskirts of Galena off Stagecoach Trail, contestants leave their bikes and run the final four miles, returning to Recreation Park for the finish.
The Arts and Recreation Center, on Galena's historic Bench Street, is a centerpiece in the community. Its facilities include a full size gymnasium, karate and dance room, an art room, and a preschool room. A playground and basketball court are outside.
The brainchild of former mayor Robert Beuhler, the Arts and Recreation Center began as the Team Center Program in 1965. In the late 1960's, the Beuhler family's B & B Foundation founded and funded the Arts and Recreation Center to provide sports and activities for residents of all ages. Over the years, the center has faced periods of economic hardship and minimal programming. Today, however, the Arts and Recreation Center is thriving.
For adults, it offers arts and education programs, and a lengthy roster of sports and recreation, including fitness conditioning, softball leagues, sand volleyball league, yoga, aerobics, and flag football. For youngsters, there are art classes, a kid's choir, family concerts, youth dance, a variety of sports, and summer day camp.
Several city and area parks provide for family fun. Recreation Park and Alice T. Virtue Memorial Pool and Water Park, to the north of Galena, has sand volleyball courts, softball field, horseshoe pits, baseball field, playground, picnic tables and shelters, and a concession stand. The Water Park has a 9,500-square-foot zero depth swimming pool, a 131-foot water slide, and a 1,500-square-foot wading pool.
Nearby Apple River Canyon State Park, between Stockton and Warren on Canyon Park Road, offers camping, fishing, hiking trails, picnic tables and shelters, and playground. Several privately operated campgrounds are also located in the Galena area.
Avid golfers all express satisfaction in the challenges enjoyed at five area golf courses. Galena Golf Club, a public course on the northwest side of Galena, has 18 holes and a clubhouse with food and beverage service.
The Galena Territory, about five miles east of Galena, boasts four world-class courses, each with its own fabulous clubhouse and pro shop. The toughest is The General, a 6,820-yard, par 72, course. The South Course is rated among the top 75 golf courses in the nation and among the 10 best public courses in Illinois by Golf Digest. The 18-hole, par 72, course is cut through a heavily wooded valley with numerous large oak trees, walnut trees, and natural rock outcroppings. A stream comes into play on 11 of the 18 holes. The North Course has rolling fairways and large undulated greens. It, too, is rated among the top 75 resort courses in the nation and one of the 10 best in Illinois. The course has 18 holes and a par of 72. The East Course is a nine-hole, par 34, course designed to test the golfer's accuracy, shot-making, and putting touch.
Four more challenging golf courses are found in the Galena area. For family fun, visit the Li'l General, an 18-hole miniature golf course with water falls and spray fountains. Its arcade features games and snacks. Two other miniature golf courses are in the Galena area.
The Alpine Slide at Galena's Chestnut Mountain Resort provides thrills galore. Wheeled sleds speed down a 2,500-foot bluff on a toboggan-like track to the edge of the Mississippi River. In winter, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers downhill skiing. Eagle Ridge Resort offers cross-country skiing.
Riding centers in The Galena Territory and in areas around Galena offers equestrians the opportunity to ride scenic trails. The Galena area also has five bowling centers, two tennis centers, and three golf practice ranges. For boaters, nearby East Dubuque, IL, has three well-equipped marinas.
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