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The Best of the Best in Galena

History, Museums, and More in Beautiful Galena!

History lovers and curious travelers alike are drawn to the Ulysses S. Grant Home in the charming town of Galena, Illinois. This prominent landmark pays homage to the life and legacy of the 18th President of the United States. This meticulously preserved residence, where Grant resided after his Civil War triumphs, offers a window into the past, with its original furnishings and personal artifacts providing a unique and enduring connection to American history. Visiting the Ulysses S. Grant Home is one of the most popular things to do in Galena, but it’s just one of the many historic attractions worth enjoying next time you visit our Galena Bed and Breakfast

The town’s vibrant thoroughfare, Main Street, is brimming with boutiques, art galleries, eateries, and more. It’s also lined with nineteenth-century architecture, much of which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A casual stroll through town doubles as a fascinating glimpse into the town’s bustling past and evokes a sense of timelessness. Like the Ulysses S. Grant Home, each historic attraction in Galena tells its own story of the town’s rich heritage. Whether you tour Galena’s oldest building, the Dowling House, or wander the beautiful garden and interior of the Belvedere Mansion, history lovers most certainly won’t be disappointed by their time here. 

Our own Bed and Breakfast stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of Galena’s well-preserved history. Our Inn is housed in what was once the Jo Daviess County Jail. The building, once derelict, has been lovingly brought back to life, with many of its historical features kept intact as we worked to build an elegant Bed and Breakfast on a hill overlooking the charming skyline of downtown Galena. From the carvings etched in our windowsills to the massive curved brick ceilings, there’s plenty to love and admire during your time with us. 

Of course, our historic building isn’t the only reason to choose our Galena Bed and Breakfast for your next getaway. We also offer the premier lodging experience in town and are the only property in Illinois outside of Chicago that has earned AAA’s coveted four-diamond status, not to mention being named as the #1 Bed and Breakfast in the entire country. There’s truly nothing like a stay in our historic Jail Hill Inn. Book your room today! 

The Ulysses S. Grant Home in Galena

Tour the Ulysses S.Grant Home

Just a short walk away and across the Galena River from our Bed and Breakfast, you’ll find Grant Park overlooking the historic skyline of downtown Galena. Continue up the hill of this scenic park – a popular spot for picnics and leisurely afternoons – and you’ll find the U.S. Grant State Historic Site, home to the Ulysses S. Grant Home. The house is a beautifully preserved building that stands as a monument to one of America’s most notable military leaders and the 18th President of the United States. 

Ulysses S. Grant’s ties to Galena date back to the pre-Civil War era when he worked in his father’s leather goods store. In 1861, he left Galena to return to military service during the American Civil War. He started as a commissioned colonel of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment and was later promoted to increasingly important commands for Union forces. His military prowess was responsible for various Union victories and an ultimate victory in the Civil War, leading him to become one of the most celebrated Union generals. 

As a token of their appreciation to General Grant, when he returned home to Galena in 1865, he did so to a hero’s homecoming. At that time, the town also gifted him the Ulysses S. Grant Home. The house, built in 1860 by William Dennison, is a typical Italianate Style. He only lived in the house for a few years before being elected 18th President of the United States in 1868. From that point, caretakers maintained the home, and he became only an occasional visitor to town. 

Today, the Ulysses S. Grant Home is much more than a house. It’s a repository of Grant’s life and achievements, meticulously preserved to offer visitors an immersive glimpse into his world. The home is replete with original furnishings and personal items belonging to the Grant family, allowing visitors to envision the domestic life of this historic figure. Each room, from the parlor to the bedrooms, is arranged as it would have been during Grant’s time, complemented by informative displays that narrate the home’s history and its inhabitants’ stories.

Docents, well-versed in the nuances of Grant’s life and the home’s history, provide enriching guided tours, offering insights into Grant’s relationship with Galena, his military prowess, and his presidency. A visit to the Ulysses S. Grant Home is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a pivotal figure in American history, gaining a deeper understanding of his personal life, family, and the town that honored him. It’s little wonder that the home remains one of the most popular things to do in Galena. 

Other than the Ulysses S. Grant Home, the Dowling House is another of the most famous historic Galena, Illinois attractions to see

More Historic Attractions and Museums in Galena

While the Ulysses S. Grant Home is one of Galena’s most popular historic attractions, it’s certainly not the only one. Two other buildings are associated with the U.S. Grant State Historic Site: the Washburne House and the Old Market House.

The Washburne House, constructed in 1843 in the popular Greek Revival style, belonged to Galena Attorney Elihu Washburne. Washburne served as a U.S. congressman, political adviser to Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and ambassador to France, and lived in this house with his family until 1882. The home has been restored to model the Victorian-age middle-class society Washburne was a part of. The home is open for tours on Fridays and Saturdays from May through October. 

The Old Market House, constructed in 1845-1846, was once the focus of daily life in Galena. This historic building housed local vendors and shoppers in the heart of the river city’s business district until 1910. It was restored in 1955, and though you can view the building from the outside, access to it is closed until further notice. 

Beyond the famed Ulysses S. Grant Home and these other associated buildings, Galena is replete with historic attractions worth visiting, many of which date back to Galena’s heyday as a bustling mining town. Other attractions and historical museums in Galena worth visiting include: 

  1. The Galena & U.S. Grant Museum further enriches visitors’ understanding of the area’s history with exhibits covering the area’s history from the Native American inhabitants to the town’s mineral boom and its impact on the Civil War.
  2. The Dowling House, built in 1826, is the oldest building in the city. This limestone edifice offers visitors a glimpse into Galena’s early days and showcases tools, furnishings, and trade goods from its days as a trading post.
  3. The Belvedere Mansion & Gardens, built in 1857, is considered the finest mansion in Galena. The lavish 22-room mansion serves as a beautiful glimpse into the high society of Galena during its mining heyday.

These historic attractions and museums in Galena collectively offer a comprehensive view of the town’s multifaceted history, from its early days through its peak during the lead mining boom and today as a thriving tourist destination. This is just a taste of all the great things to do in town, though – so give yourself a few days to enjoy it all, and book a room at our top-rated historic Bed and Breakfast in Galena today! 

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