This is another in a continuing series of travelogue articles spotlighting presidential historic sites across America. Join us as we explore the historic town of Galena, Illinois and visit the stately home of America’s 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant…
Galena, Illinois: An Overview
Located in the rolling hills of far northwestern Illinois, Galena originally came into prominence in the mid to late 1800’s. Back then, Galena was the heart of lead mining country, as the hilly terrain in the area had rich deposits of lead and iron ore.
Eventually, mining ran out of steam and Galena ultimately reinvented itself as a weekend get away, aided by a historic downtown and spectacular scenery. Today, the town is bursting with unique specialty shops, antique stores, and cozy bed and breakfasts.
Galena is popular all year around. In winter, skiing is a popular activity with several ski resorts nearby. Spring and summer bring visitors to stroll the narrow streets of downtown Galena and enjoy the many activities in town. Autumn is particularly popular, as Mother Nature puts on a show with stunning colors of lush trees along winding roads, valleys, and hill tops.
The town itself is not large, with a population well under 10,000. But there is plenty to see and do here, even without spending a day shopping. Just 20 miles west is the historic river city of Dubuque, Iowa, which beckons with more shops to explore, three college campuses, and the new Mississippi River Aquarium.
Visiting The Grant Home
Ulysses S. Grant is as well known for being a famous Civil War general as our 18th president, perhaps more. Grant and his family lived in Galena just before he reenlisted in the U.S. Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. When the war ended, he returned to Galena to live.
Arriving back in town in August, 1865, quite a surprise awaited him. The town of Galena had purchased him a handsome brick mansion on a hilltop just outside of downtown. The house, now open as a Grant museum, is where he lived until ascending to the presidency in 1869.
Grant continued to visit Galena and stay in the home until just a few years before he died in 1885. In 1904, his children gave the property to the town, with the understanding that it be preserved as an historic site. Over the ensuing years, the property has been beautifully maintained and welcomes thousands of visitors annually.
Tours are given Wednesday through Sunday and last about 45 minutes. You will see numerous original furnishings from when Grant and his family lived here, including many personal mementos from his presidency.
This home in Galena is one of four historic sites dedicated to President Grant across the country, and is probably the most thorough in terms of chronicling his life and career. The grounds are beautiful and afford a view of the town and the surrounding countryside.
A weekend visit to the Galena area is ideal for any age or interest level. There are numerous historic attractions, four season outdoor activities, and specialty shopping.
At the centerpiece is President Grant’s home, the perfect place to learn about his life, career, and place in American history.