Galena, Illinois
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Lifestyle, Location & History

Discover the cultural ambience and rare sophitication of thhis exceptional small town.

Nestled among the pastoral hills of northwestern Illinois, Galena offers both its citizens and guests a wealth of amenities. From the town's unique rural setting to the community's dedication to its quality of life, the residents of Galena enjoy the charm of a friendly small town (population 3,460) and the sophistication one might expect from more urban locales. While the community is steeped in its history, it is populated with artisans, restauranteurs, shop owners, bed and breakfast proprietors, and others who are committed to maintaining a rich cultural existence into the future. Visitors to Galena benefit from this commitment through the beauty of a restored 19th-century town. Renowned potters and painters, a host of diverse eateries, and a broad spectrum of retail stores and specialty shops inhabit the restored environs of the Galena landscape.

Simultaneously, Galena is populated with ambitious businesspeople who are committed to developing an economic environment that will embrace both the needs of technology and the lifestyles of those engaged in high-tech industry. Individuals and families relocating to Galena benefit from this commitment, and they discover the potential for their businesses to succeed and for their lifestyles to flourish. With the implementation of DSL wireless technology into the infrastructure, the emerging trend of working from home is facilitated in Galena. This potential, coupled with other economic development factors, has begun to show results, as businesspeople from across the country recognize the allure of moving to Galena.

Another draw for Galena's residents and guests is recreation. Outdoor activities are not only a commodity in Galena; they are a way of life. The rolling hills of Jo Daviess County, left untouched by the receding glaciers of the last Ice Age, foster a generous selection of recreational possibilities. From Midwestern favorites such as horseback riding and fishing to less ordinary activities like downhill skiing and hot air balloon rides, interaction with the natural landscape of the Galena area promises to appeal to everyone's sensibilities.

Leadership in Galena is fostering the ability to experience the region's beauty through the expansion of area bike trails, allowing a more intimate journey through the countryside. However, it is not only the hills of Jo Daviess County that grant Galena its natural splendor. The mighty Mississippi River rushes by only six miles west of town. In addition, the Galena River slices through downtown on its journey toward the Big Muddy. These historic waterways offer recreational travelers another option for up-close views of nature: canoeing. The city's new boat dock, adjacent to the downtown area, allows canoe enthusiasts to park and easily enter the river.

An astronomy club in Galena takes advantage of the region's rural serenity and lack of light pollution to study the night sky. Rolling hills and a range of open spaces without outdoor lighting create an atmosphere of "absolute dark," a condition craved by astronomy buffs, as it provides perfect conditions for stargazing.

Galena is a town thoroughly blessed by its location. While it is isolated from the sprawl and surge of metropolitan life, residents and visitors alike can easily travel between Galena and larger cities. Driving on U.S. Route 20, Dubuque, Iowa (a city of nearly 60,000), is approximately 15 miles west, and Freeport, Ill., is less than 50 miles to the east. State Highway 84 merges with U.S. Route 20 in Galena, carrying traffic north about six miles to cross the Wisconsin border and south toward the Quad Cities. Furthermore, a network of scenic highways winds through Jo Daviess County, connecting its various towns and villages. Interstate bus service is also available in and out of Galena.

Air travel to and from the Galena area is made possible by two airports. The Dubuque Regional Airport services commercial airline traffic, while Rockford's Northwest Chicagoland Regional Airport provides service to domestic locations and non-stop flights to popular tourist destinations without the hassle of driving into Chicago.

Whether you're a new visitor or a long-time resident of Galena, one of the first things you'll notice is the town's bond to its history. The past has been preserved in Galena. Through the meticulous care of countless Galenians, residential and business districts have been renovated to 19th-century specifications. While 85 percent of Galena's buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the French Colonial and Victorian architecture of those structures cannot depict the most fascinating elements of the area's history.

Two major forces have shaped Galena's history and, in many ways, Galena's present. The first of those forces is the magnet of lead mining. In the late 1600s, French explorers discovered that the Sac and Fox Indians were mining lead in the hills around Galena. One Frenchman, Nicholas Perrot, even established a trading post in the area around 1690. However, it would be over 100 years later, in the early 1800s, before the mining industry began to boom in Jo Daviess County. In 1826, with a population of 150, Galena was organized. The name was chosen because Galena is the Latin term for the sulfide of lead. Once Galena was established, a "Lead Rush" followed.

As Galena began to grow with the prosperity of the lead-mining industry, the second major historical force emerged. The Mississippi River, just a few miles downstream from Galena's town center, became an obvious and necessary resource for the export of lead and the import of goods. By the 1850s, steamboats and barges poured through Galena's thriving riverside, making it the busiest port between St. Louis and St. Paul.

With a population approaching 14,000, Galena exported its peak tonnage of lead in 1845 (54,494,850 pounds). However, when the Civil War broke out in the 1860s, Galena discovered a new export: soldiers. Amazingly, the town contributed nine soldiers who attained the rank of general while in service to the Union Army. Among those soldiers was Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the United States.

Although the prominence of the lead-mining industry eventually faded and the railroads all but erased steamboat traffic on the Mississippi, the entrepreneurial spirit of Galena's earliest settlers has remained steadfast through the passage of time. Beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s, major restoration efforts began to reclaim Galena's past and turn it into a resource that could serve the community. As business districts were restored, specialty shops and galleries moved in. As residential districts were gentrified, old homes became bed and breakfasts and country inns. And while tourism became the new business in Galena, culture became the commodity that was being traded. Whether it was the preserved 19th-century culture of a lead-mining boomtown or the postmodern culture of innovative artisans, it was ultimately the residents of this community who reclaimed Galena as a distinctive and unforgettable place to live and visit.

Approximate Mileage To Major Midwestern Cities

Madison, Wisc. -100
Chicago, Ill. -160
Milwaukee, Wisc. -160
Des Moines, Iowa -210
Springfield, Ill. -250
Minneapolis, Minn. -300
Indianapolis, Ind. -350
St. Louis, Mo. -350
Kansas City, Mo. -400
Lincoln, Neb. -400
Sioux Falls, S.D. -420
Detroit, Mich. -450
Cincinnati, Ohio -460
Topeka, Kan. -460

Airport Information

Rockford Airport

FAA identifier - RFD
Location 4 miles south of Rockford, Ill.
Use - Open to the public

Runway 1/19
Dimensions 8,200 ft. x 150 ft.
Instrument landing system - Category I
Surface - Asphalt/porous friction
Edge Lights - High intensity
End identifier lights - Yes

Scheduled Flights Through
TransMeridian Airlines 1-866-IFly-TMA (435-9862)

Charter Service - Available

Freight Companies Served
• UPS (2nd-largest air hub sorting facility, UPS)
• Airborne Express
• BAX Global

Services Offered
• U.S. Customs Port of Entry
• Foreign Trade Zone #176
• Fuel available 100LL JET-A JET-A1+
• Parking - Hangars and tiedowns

Industrial Tenants - 30

Over the past few years, more than $170 million has been invested in infrastructure improvements and facilities at RFD, and the airport is in the midst of a $13 million airport improvement program.

Dubuque Airport

FAA identifier - DBQ
Location - 6.5 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa, on Hwy. 61
Use - Open to the public
Jet service - American Eagle Airlines to Chicago O'Hare; 4flights daily 800-433-7300
Charter service - Available

Fuel available - AvFuel Jet A or 100 low lead
• Parking - Hangars and tiedowns