Annual Tour of Historic Galena Homes
September 29 and 30, 2018
It’s a labor of love, really… this business of asking owners of Galena’s rich cache of historic buildings to open their homes to the public for an entire weekend. We’re asking a lot, we know. Yet every year, roughly a half dozen properties are, indeed, offered up for touring, giving lovers of history, quality American workmanship and even quirky ingenuity the opportunity to see why Galena’s 19th Century architecture and interiors are second to none.
We’re busy planning the 2018 Tour of Historic Galena Homes! Always the last full weekend in September, the 2018 tour will be held on September 29 and 30. Until then, please enjoy these notes on the homes featured on the tour in 2017.
Captain Bates House, 1203 Third Street
David Bates brought a keel boat from St. Louis, Missouri to Galena in 1819, later running steamboats between the two cities and St. Paul, Minn. In 1829, he built the steamer Galena, in Cincinnati, Ohio. With wealth he accumulated as one of the best-known Mississippi River steamboat captains of his generation, he built this spacious, 13-room, Federal-style mansion in 1830 from native stone.
In 1837, Bates’ boat sank in the Galena River, so he decided to sell his properties and leave town. After a long and varied ownership history, the home eventually fell into disrepair.
The current owners have dedicated themselves to giving the home new life. They have resurrected it by repairing and replacing many of its structural elements, building a thoughtful and well-planned addition, redecorating, and furnishing it with their wonderful collection of 18th and 19th century antiques. It is a treasure inside and out!
Aldrich House, 900 Third Street
This elegant, brick home was constructed in 1846 by stage line agent Cyrus Aldrich, who served in the Illinois House and, after moving to Minnesota, in the U.S. House representing that state during the Civil War.
Like many houses in Galena, this home has multiple additions. The first was built in 1853 by J. Russell Jones, who served in the Illinois House and was Minister to Belgium during the Grant administration. Robert H. McClellan, a state senator and banker, added another in 1858. This house has the unique distinction of being home to a number of state and federal politicians.
Oral tradition holds that U. S. Grant trained Civil War volunteers on this property in 1861. The home has been a private residence, part of a country club property, and is now a bed-and-breakfast. It has been painstakingly refurbished, redecorated, and now serves as a quintessential example of old Galena.
Woodward House, 810 Park Avenue
Original owner George Woodward was a prominent Unitarian minister and businessman. He was Galena City Clerk and a trustee of the new and elegant DeSoto House Hotel. Woodward’s imposing brick mansion was completed in 1851, commanding a prominent position overlooking the river and downtown.
Today, after more than 150 years, the home retains much of its original configuration and many original architectural elements.
Old Banking House, 403 S. Bench Street
Constructed originally as a log cabin with an upper loft, this house was built circa 1826. An 1830s tenant, William Bostwick, was cashier of the Galena branch of the Illinois State Bank, also located on Bench Street. When that institution burned down, Bostwick moved the banking operations to his home, and here the bank operated until it closed during the depression of the late 1830s.
By the mid-1800s, the house was known as the Mansion House Hotel and the bell (still in front of the house) was the hotel’s dinner bell. It was rung at 12:15 p.m. daily and people from all over the city came here to eat. By 1854, it was the home of Jacob Eberhart, who helped make uniforms for Galena’s Civil War volunteers.
Exposed, hand-hewn logs dominate the interior, taking guests back to its early years. Perfectly placed primitive-style furnishings and décor do the same. The home is a cherished testament to the loving care and adoration that its owners and their guests hold for it.
Charles Merrick House, 905 Third Street
Charles Merrick was the son of a Galena businessman. He married Fannie Snyder, the daughter of William and Lucretia McLean Snyder who lived just down the street. He eventually took over for William as cashier of the Merchant’s National Bank of Galena, a respectable post. His reputation was one of reliability and efficiency. He was a dedicated and purposeful member of the community, was a member of the Grace Episcopal Church, and sat on the committee for the Turner Hall dedication ceremony.
This house was built circa 1890 in the Stick style with influences similar to that of the related Queen Anne and Gothic Revival styles. As a style, it became popular as standardized lumber and mass-produced nails became more commonly available. It can be easily identified by the decorative wood (or “stick”) trim on its façade.