Welcome to the rolling hills and lush valleys of Jo Daviess County. Located in the far Northwest corner of Illinois, the Mississippi River forms the county's western border. The glaciers of the Ice Age passed this area by, leaving scenic county terrain.
White steeple churches and historic buildings are among Galena's charm. Rich in history, Galena has become an architectural treasure. Restored homes and commercial structures represent a myriad of 19th century building styles. Firmly rooted in her past, contemporary Galena offers residents, businesses and visitors a wealth of services and a high quality of life not found in other communities of similar size.
Galena, Rich in History Lead mining started it all! By 1845, over 80% of the nation's lead moved through Galena. Ideally located, the town is just a few miles from the Mississippi River. Galena's merchants monopolized trade-which extended beyond lead. Retail and wholesale activity was rampant. Settlers moving into Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota depended on Galena's mercantile interests to survive.
As Galena prospered, accumulated wealth was transformed into elegant mansions and substantial commercial buildings. By the mid 1850's the future still looked good. Galena's lead production was down, but business activity overall was increasing.
But the seeds of demise had already been sown, for in a few short years Galena would suffer relative decline and neglect. The buildings stayed but the businesses did not. What happened?
Today, six major reasons can be attributed to Galena's decline. (1) River siltation. (2) With the arrival of the railroad, Galena no longer had a captive audience. Towns along the route could handle trade traffic. (3) Low lead prices and reduced production. (4) Panic of 1857 - Nationwide economic over-extension and increasing competition caused a severe recession. The assessed valuation for the city dropped by more than 75% between 1857 and 1867! (5) Civil War and (6) City politics. Increasing polarization between the two parties weakened city government.
Progress passed Galena by, making it "The Town That Time Forgot!"
Ulysses S. Grant, Galena's Most Famous Citizen U.S. Grant and his family had lived in Galena only about eight months when Fort Sumter fell and the leather clerk marched off to war. Grant became the commander in chief of the Union armies and returned to Galena in triumph in August of 1865. The Grants were presented a gift by Galena's citizens, a two-story Italiante brick house on Galena's east side.
The purchase of the home may have been arranged by a small group of local Republicans, led by Grant's champion, Congressman Elihu B. Washburne. In any event, the Grants spent little time in the house donated to them. After being elected to the presidency in 1868, Grant called Washington D.C. home; and after his second term, Grant and his family went on a tour, then returned to Galena briefly in 1879.
The house stayed in the Grant family until 1904, when the late president's children deeded it to the city of Galena with the stipulation that it remained a memorial to Grant. The state of Illinois obtained the property in 1931. Over time it fell into disrepair. Finally, in 1955 Illinois legislature appropriated sufficient funds for the restoration, which was completed in 1957. That same year the house was rededicated as a State Historical Site.
Galena Area Chamber of Commerce The Chamber is located in the restored 1857 Illinois Central Train Depot at 101 Bouthillier Street. The Depot, with its Italianate architecture, has long been a Galena landmark. In addition to Chamber offices, the Depot houses the Visitor Information Center.
Chamber staff invites and greets the visitor 361 days a year, 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm with extended hours in the summer. Individual business brochures, newspapers and information booklets line the shelves and are available to the visitors.
Individuals exploring the possibility of opening a business or relocating to Jo Daviess County are provided with relocation packets. The packets contain the Community Guide to Resources and tools to educate the inquirer on what is available in Galena and the surrounding area.
Keeping abreast of technology the Chamber has a website; www.galenanet.org. Technology exposes what our members offer to the world!
In addition, the Chamber strives to maintain the traditions of a community by: developing a business/education partnership that provides programs and resources to area schools, sponsoring the annual Halloween Parade, coordinating and funding Country Christmas festivities which include: downtown decorations and the lighting of the luminaria, and inviting youngsters to visit Santa's House.
The Chamber is a strong organization because of its members. Continued growth as an organization and community requires involvement and support of the whole. For additional Chamber information, please contact the office at: (815) 777-0203
Approximately one million people visit Galena and Jo Daviess County on an annual basis. Once here, the visitor enjoys all that the community has to offer.
Ninety percent of Galena's Main Street is listed in the National Historic Register. Stores and restaurants line four blocks of Galena's historic downtown. Stroll Main Street and shop antique, arts and crafts and specialty gift stores. Or, walk up and down quaint streets and discover architecture from a bygone era around every bend. Seventy-five percent of Galena is listed in the National Historic Register.
Local restaurants have something for the light or hearty appetite. Adding to the flavor is the historic atmosphere of dining rooms or cool, light breezes of outdoor patios. Fine cuisine for the main course followed by rich chocolates and sinful pastries round off the perfect meal.
B&B's, resorts, country inns, hotels and motels open their doors to the visitor. Whether you're looking for a historic or modern day experience you will have plenty to choose from. You'll fall in love with the ambiance and amenities of these first class accommodations.
The area is fortunate to have many enthusiastic individuals who lend their talents for the enjoyment of others. Among the artistic and talented, musicians and actors convey their trade by way of instruments, song or the spoken word. Local artists capture historic Galena and scenic Jo Daviess County on canvas in water color, oil and charcoal.
With such a diverse and talented group of people; many fairs and events have sprung from their efforts. In addition, volunteers carry on the tradition of giving by organizing parades, holiday events and festivals.
There is a reason for the seasons in Jo Daviess County. Spring is a time for renewal. When the outdoors beckon, leisurely stroll the scenic towns or bike the hills and valleys of the county. One thing is for sure, fresh air and sunshine await you around every corner.
Golf anyone? The avid golfer is in for a treat when they tee up at one of the county's championship golf courses. Signature golf holes, water and sand hazards, all make for challenging rounds. Be ready to add a penalty stroke if you miss out on this opportunity.
As the cool winds blow and the temperature drops, bundle up for winter fun. Skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating and sleighriding are among the winter activities to choose from.
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