Historic Galena, Illinois

January 14, 2019

Dowling House in Historic Galena, Ilinois

For the past few years my family and I have spent our New Year's holiday in a very special place -- historic Galena, Illinois. I wrote about it once before in Our New Year's Visit To Historic Galena, Illinois  but that was a few years ago and I thought it was time for an update. The above photo is from that prior blog post.

Galena is a fabulous little town in northwest Illinois that is known for many charming features -- its history, architecture, and natural beauty to name a few. I love that it has become a yearly family tradition, thanks to the generosity of a family friend who graciously lends us her lovely home for some much-needed time away each year.

Simply Elegant shop Main Street Galena brick building Christmas decorations

My favorite thing to do while in Galena is visit its many vintage and antique shops (as well as a large consignment shop) and check out all the great vintage finds they have to offer. All you have to do is start at one end of Main Street and work your way down -- many a block -- to the other end. There's enough to satisfy just about anyone who loves the thrill of the hunt. And while we did do some shopping during this trip, we also visited a few historic places that I'd like to share.

Ulysses S. Grant House home homestead Galena Ilinois

This year we made it a point to visit the home of our 18th President and Commander of the Union Army, General Ulysses S. Grant. The home sits atop one of the many hills that make Galena so unique. There is a guided tour of the first floor and a self-guided tour of the second floor.

1800's Christmas tree
Upon entering the home, after seeing the study, you're greeted by a traditional mid-1800's Christmas tree that sits in the formal living room.

Ulysses S. Grant house Galena IL Christmas decorations

Natural elements like evergreen garland were used, as well as pointsettias and red ribbons to create a colorful holiday mood.

formal living room Ulysses S. Grant Galena Illinois

Remarkably, most of the furnishings are original to the house, but for the wallpaper and curtains. The green velvet chair is said to have been a real favorite of President Grant's.

Grant House portrait fireplace formal living room

Grant's portrait sits above the fireplace.

Ulysses S. Grant piano

The original piano was destroyed, however, this is a replica of it.

Ulysses S. Grant dining room Christmas dinner

The dining room was decorated for the holiday just like the living room. The table was set for a formal dinner.

Colonial Christmas table fruit turkey china silver

Just look at that silver service! 

Grant presidential china

While the president and his wife, Julia's, presidential china was lovely, it had to remain in the White House after Grant's term was over, as does all presidential china.

Nellie Algernon Sartoris wedding White House china

This china, however, commissioned by the White House for their daughter Nellie's wedding, did get to go home to Galena with them. Hers was the fourth White House wedding for a president's child.

Ulysses S. Grant kitchen pantry pottery jugs

Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture of the kitchen. Suffice it to say that it was small and had a large black iron stove in it. In an alcove off the kitchen there was a tub that was used by each family member on bath night (they shared the water!). This is the pantry, filled with cooking utensils and food storage jars. I had questioned the authenticity of the Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce box on the bottom shelf, but research shows that they've been around since 1835!

colonial bedroom

Moving on to the upstairs, this was their son Frederick's bedroom.

Nellie Grant's bedroom

This was daughter Nellie's room. They had four children and each got their own room. I imagine that was quite a luxury at the time.

colonial decorated master bedroom

And this was the "master" bedroom, if you will, for Ulysses and Julia.

Ulysses S. Grant dressing room

The couple even had their own attached "dressing room."

mountain view Illinois

This is just one of the gorgeous views you encounter while looking out from the front of the home.

Julia Dent Grant statue Galena Illinois

This, too, is looking out from the front yard, onto the statue of Grant's wife, Julia Dent Grant. Below that is open green space, a lovely park-like setting. I believe the building in the far background is the old Galena High School.

Desoto House Hotel in Historic Galena, Ilinois

Just an eight minute walk from Grant's house is the Desoto House Hotel. It's the oldest operating hotel in Illinois (since 1855). This photo is from my prior post about Galena. We haven't stayed there since we haven't needed a hotel, but this time we did visit their Green Street Tavern and Restaurant for lunch. The following is taken from the DeSoto House Hotel's website:

Ulysses S. Grant’s return to his hometown of Galena following the Civil War brought 25,000 citizens to the streets to welcome him home. Bands, parades, and cannon salutes preceded a reception ball for 2,000 persons which was held at the DeSoto House. Grant later used rooms 209 and 211 of the hotel as his presidential campaign headquarters.

The hotel boasts of having many influential visitors over the years, and their 55 rooms are named after those guests. 

DeSoto House hotel atrium Christmas tree

The hotel has also has an atrium restaurant that is decorated beautifully for the holidays.

colonial hotel decor Christmas tree

Various Christmas trees are interspersed throughout the hotel. This one was in their "Quiet Room." 

We found this tree outside a ballroom.

And this tree was in the hotel lobby. So all in all we found the DeSoto Hotel to be quite interesting, and charming, from a historical perspective.

While in Galena we ate like kings and queens, shopped till we dropped and attended a fabulous magic show. We also sat by the fire and watched movies as a family, appreciating the quiet and the slower pace compared to home. Getting away from it all to unwind -- wherever you go -- I recommend it highly!

Well, that's it until next time, friends! 
I hope you enjoyed reading about
Historic Galena, Illinois.

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Dowling House in Historic Galena, Ilinois

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Leave a Comment!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Such a fun getaway! I have been through this charming town a couple of times while travelling, but have never spent any time there. It was great to see all the photos you took!

Junkchiccottage said...

I have not been to Galena in a long time. I remember the great little resturants and shops. I bet it was fun to go through Grant's home. How fun to feel the historic vibes and think about their lives and how they lived in that home. So cool.

My thrift store addiction said...

What a fun place to take a trip! Thanks for the charming tour! Also, I got your sweet comment on my blog--thank you!

Kathy said...

What a lovely tour; I am one of the ones that LOVE other people's vacation pictures and I felt like you were explaining them to me in person. And I even got a bit of history thrown in! I hope you have another post with pictures of any treasures you found. Glad you got a recharging getaway; it's important to do that!

Kippi O'Hern said...

I love history and this post was a delight to read and see the photos of your trip. Happy New Year, Kippi

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