Grant birthday weekend: A sensory experience in history

Stuffed figs. Layers of silk and lace. Women and men in uniforms. A trial. A state dinner taken from the White House menus of the Grants. Dancing to the Americana Band.  Those are just some of the tastes, the sounds, the sights and experiences of this year’s Grant Birthday weekend, April 12-14.

Each year the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society celebrates the birthday of Galena’s favorite son, Civil War hero and our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant. Grant. He was born April 27, 1822; thus this year will be his 197th birthday.

The lamplight tour of the U.S. Grant Home creates a soft glow during the Grant Birthday weekend.

Working with several local volunteers and organizations, the Historical Society’s Grant Birthday weekend is a festival of sorts, with numerous activities geared to educate and entertain. The weekend includes dramatic performances, Main Street walking tours with General Grant, a lamplight tour of the Grant Home on Bouthillier Street, an old-time pie auction, and more.

This year’s Grant Birthday festivities are sponsored by the Community Development Fund of Galena (CDFG) and Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa.


Dinner with the Grants

Saturday evening, April 13, the Historical Society presents President Grant’s State Dinner at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa ballroom. President and Mrs. Grant invite friends to join them for this grand occasion. The event includes a five-course meal inspired by dishes the Grants served at the White House. Semi-formal or period attire are appropriate.


Tickets are available for $75 at the history museum website, A limited number of seats are available at the President’s Table for $95 by calling the Historical Society at 815-777-9129. RSVP by April 8.


“We are excited to have the Americana Band join us, adding live music and dancing to the Grant Birthday activities, creating an immersive experience throughout the weekend,” says Historical Society Executive Director Nancy Breed. “President Grant’s State Dinner is a unique opportunity to dive into the history, stories, even the food of Grant’s time.”


Complete Event Schedule

The schedule for President Grant’s 197th Birthday Celebration offers numerous opportunities to join in on fun. Unless specified, the activities are free of charge.


Friday, April 12

5 6 p.m. – The popular Grant Home Lamplight Tour, at the Grant Home State Historic Site, 500 Bouthillier St., gives participants the opportunity to see Grant’s home as he and his family saw it – by the soft light of gas lamps.


Saturday, April 13

9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. –  Galena & U.S. Grant Museum, 211 S. Bench St., free admission and refreshments.

10 a.m.& noon – Main Street Walking Tour with General Grant; meet in DeSoto House Hotel lobby, 230 S.  Main St.; $15 per person.

11 a.m. – Home Front Pie Auction at Gateway to History; dozens of locally donated pies will be up for auction.

Noon – The trial of the “Nefarious Plot to Capture General U.S. Grant ,” and more events to come at the History Museum, including:

1 p.m. – Women of Courage and Commitment

2 p.m. – Meet the Generals — Interviews with Four Union Generals

3 p.m. – Mr. and Mrs. Grant — The Pre-War Years

6 p.m. – Social Hour for President Grant’s State Dinner, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa; 7 p.m. dinner.; 8:30 p.m. concert and dancing.


Sunday, April 14

9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. – Birthday cake and refreshments at the History Museum.

10 a.m.& Noon – Main Street Walking Tour with General Grant; meet in Desoto House Hotel lobby, 230 S. Main St.; $15 per person.

10:30 a.m. – Historic Methodist Service, with circuit-rider preacher, at the Galena Untied Methodist Church, 125 S. Bench St., where the Grant family worshipped. Potluck to follow service.


“As the weekend approaches, connect with us on our website,, and follow how Grant Birthday Weekend develops on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Breed said. “This is an exciting time of year as we kick off Galena’s busy season, and look forward to welcoming visitors from near and far. This is a time to see Galena shine, and Grant Birthday Weekend is a major part of that.”