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Galena Illinois History

Galena's city architecture reveals a rich history, originating with the Sac and Fox Native Americans Indians who occupied the area. The French settled the area by the late 17th century, American settlers arrived in the early 19th century. Galena was booming in the early 19th century due to a high demand for lead and being the richest lead-bearing region in the world, with the purest quality known, the city's primary income source was lead mining, however by the mid 19th century the demand for lead declined and Galena's population dropped from 14,000 to 3,396 by the late 21st century.

The Galena River being centrally located between St. Louis and St. Paul on the Mississippi River made Galena a hub of steamboat commerce  it was once one of the most important cities in Illinois and being the home of General Ulysses S. Grant the city received national attention during the 1860s. Today the Galena River is inaccessible to steamboats due to erosion.




The city adopted it's official flag in 1976. The flag symbolizes mining, agriculture, steamboats, and the nine American Civil War generals who lived in the city.

Until the late 1980s, Galena Illinois was a small rural farming community up until the late 1980's. In the 1990's local industries in Galena included Microswitch, Inc., a Kraft Foods cheese plant, and the John Westwick's and Lemfco Foundries.

Galena's tourism trade began in the 1980's when Galena Mayor Frank Einsweiler started a tourist campaign changing Galena into one of the top tourist attractions in NW Illinois. Now Downtown Galena offers tourists a memorable get away and walk back in time. Main Street's old brick streets are lined with shops of all kinds from ice cream parlors to wineries, including The Atomic Toy Company, , Since that time the face of Galena has changed a great deal. Long-standing businesses in the downtown area including Stair's Grocery, Sullivan's Grocery, Clingman's Pharmacy, the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Illinois, and Hartig Drug have closed their downtown locations. Clingman's and Hartig's have relocated to the outskirts of Galena, while Stair's and Sullivan's closed their doors permanently.[citation needed] In late 2010, Clingman's joined the Hartig's family and moved their pharmacy to Hartig's Drugs location along Highway 20.

The Country Fair in Grant Park has helped guide the change to a tourist town. It is a craft show that attracts thousands of visitors to the area. The once boarded-up Main Street buildings have also been given a rejuvenation in the past two decades.

In 2010 Galena started a campaign called Vision2020, that is modeled after neighbor Dubuque, Iowa's Vision 2010, a committee which gives the community five ideas out of hundreds brought forth in the community that they want Galena to do in the next decade.

Galena has many parades that attract tourism. In 2010, the 32nd annual Halloween Parade attendance was estimated at 15,000.

In 2011, TripAdvisor listed Galena among its top-ten "Charming Small Towns".

Galena Illinois History Further Reading and Resources

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

City of Galena

Galena and U.S. Grant Museum

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