If you plan to visit the Galena, Illinois area any time soon, there is only one choice for lodging that will bring you the best of this historic, charming town. The Jail Hill Inn, which recently joined the ranks of other Select Registry properties around the country, is Galena’s #1-rated Bed and Breakfast. Housed in the historic 4-story brick building where the Jo Daviess County Jail once operated, the Jail Hill Inn offers its guests an unmatched glimpse into the history of Galena. Coupled with the luxury you expect from Select Registry-branded Inns, there is simply no better place to stay when you’re in Galena.
In the short year that the Jail Hill Inn has been open for business, we have already received awards and accolades that we thought were well out of our reach. The original county jail was built in 1878, and stayed in operation until 1977. After that, the building sat empty for 2 decades, until Owner/Innkeeper Matthew Carroll bought it in 2015 with dreams of turning it into a Bed and Breakfast. Fast forward to today, and the Jail Hill Inn is an extraordinary example of how old, derelict buildings can be preserved and renovated into something spectacular.
Today, you’ll find significant and beautifully preserved remnants of the jail’s original architecture throughout the Inn. Elements like the original wooden beams and vaulted ceilings on the 4th floor, sections of the original concrete floor, the 14-foot curved brick ceiling on the second floor, and 23 of the original 9-foot tall windows stand as stunning reminders of Galena’s historic past, and have become a favorite talking point for Matthew and his guests. In light of the incredible restorative work done on the Jail Hill Inn, Matthew was awarded the Adaptive Use Award in 2016, by the historic preservation group, Landmarks Illinois. Each year, this organization honors nine outstanding examples of excellence in historic preservation, with the goal of inspiring the preservation of other important and historic buildings. The Adaptive Use Award, specifically, is given to businesses, like Jail Hill Inn, that allow for the continued use of a historic structure.
Not only has the Jail Hill Inn revived a once-empty building, it has brought a new life to the town of Galena. The re-opening of this stunning building means increased property values, a new and appealing aesthetic to the surrounding neighborhood, new tax dollars and employment opportunities, and a new type of luxury lodging for the town of Galena. To see the incredible restoration of this building, book a room at our historic hotel today.
Jail Hill Inn History
In 1878, Jo Daviess County built a new jail to replace the older one, which was previously destroyed by fire. The four-story, Empire-style, brick and limestone building measured 8,000 total square feet and cost $16,000 to build.
The bottom two floors served as an office and residence for the sheriff and his family. The third floor, capable of holding up to a dozen male prisoners, featured a poured concrete over steel floor to ensure inmates couldn’t dig down and reach the jailer’s family. The fourth floor housed female inmates.
Used as a jail until 1977, the building then sat abandoned for 26 years. Several attempts were made to repurpose the structure, but before completion the project was foreclosed upon.
In 2015, Galena-native Matthew Carroll saved the jail with his vision to turn it into a luxury inn that preserved its historic features, yet offered modern conveniences.
With 45 windows (some 9 feet tall), an exposed 14-foot tall, curved brick ceiling, the original 4th floor beams and unique vaulted ceilings, the history and original architectural details of the inn are a remarkable sight.
After a seven month renovation, Jail Hill Inn’s first guest checked in on December 26, 2015.
To learn more about Jail Hill Inn’s history, view the collection of old jail records, historical documents and vintage jail photos on display at the inn.
- Construction began in 1878 to replace the older jail that was destroyed by fire. The structure cost $16,000 to build.
- The building measures at 7500 total square feet and is 40×45 feet in size.
- The bottom two floors of the four story building served as a residence for the sheriff and his family.
- The third floor is where the prison cells were and had six 5’x8′ cells capable of holding up to a dozen prisoners.
- The second floor features brick archway ceilings that were part of the security for the jail and the floor above was built with iron beams and the entire floor covered in iron plates.
- The walls of the building are 24″ thick, which you can see by the thickness of the window ledges.
- There are 44 windows total and 13 of them are over 9 feet tall.
- The building was last used as a jail in 1977 and then was sold, gutted of its components and sat abandoned for 26 years before it was used as a private home.
- Matthew Carroll took possession of the building in February 2015 and was granted a Special Use Permit from the City of Galena to convert the building to a six suite small inn in March 2015.