Today we journeyed to Galena, Illinois, a little town in the northwest corner of Illinois just across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Those of you who know us well will know that neither one of us is fond of driving across large bodies of water, but in order to get to Illinois, we had to cross the Mississippi River.
Approaching the bridge over the Mississippi River
Looking out over the river from the car
We’re happy to report that there were no tears, no swearing, and very little angst. We’re finally getting a handle on this fear of ours.
We found Galena because we like history and discovered in our search of all things historic that Galena, Illinois, has a house that Ulysses S. Grant owned and lived in for a while. The house is mostly authentic except that a tornado tore off part of the roof several decades ago and the roof had to be replaced. Most of the furnishings in the home belonged to the Grant s. Though not owned by the Grant family any longer, the tour guide said that the ancestors of Ulysses’ still visit and even had a family reunion there not too long ago. As a side note, we actually are distant cousins of Ulysses S. Grant. Our dad’s mom was a Grant and her family and Ulysses descend from Mathew Grant who came to America in the 1600’s. That’s our claim to fame, for what it’s worth to anyone.
The tour guide told us that women in the 1800’s were an average five feet tall and men were an average five feet seven inches. Ulysses was taller than average at five feet eight inches. His wife wore a size four shoe, which was also normal for the time. After going up and down the stairs of that home we can tell you that our size eight’s dwarfed those stairs. If you have ever toured an old home or building, you know that the stairs from that time period are almost treacherous. They are steep and narrow. Sandy said she thought about sitting down on the top step and sliding down the stairs on her butt, but then she thought, “If our shoes dwarf the steps…”
The couches in Grant’s parlor were made from real horse hair twined together with silk. He also had a built-in tub, unheard of for the time, that had a drain that went to the outside. So, even though they didn’t have indoor plumbing, they could still drain the tub without having to bail the water out. Quite a luxury for the time.
Front of Grant’s house
Side view of Grant’s house
Parlor with a very cool piano
Grant’s dining room – love the old furniture and the built-in floor-to-ceiling cupboard.
Statue of Grant’s wife, Julia Dent Grant
The tour guide told us that Mrs. Grant was very active in the women’s rights movement. She knew and worked with Susan B. Anthony and was the first First Lady to include women in the official greeting line at the White House.
After our tour, we went to Main Street and went shopping – lots of little stores in old buildings. It’s a really cute town built on a hill with several old buildings. A sign in one of the shops where we stopped said that Galena has the oldest operating post office in the country. So while you may have never heard of Galena, Illinois, and didn’t know such a place even existed, we recommend spending a day here if you find it in your area of travel at some time.
Main Street, Galena, Illinois
By the way, Culver’s has buy one concrete mixer (frozen custard) and get one free on weekdays between 2 pm and 5 pm. We’re just sayin….
And there you have it. We’ll be back…