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The Vanishing Tradition of Main Streets

And how Galena is fighting to keep it alive If you think about small-town America, what comes to mind? Probably tree-lined neighborhoods (maybe with white picket-fenced houses), friendly folks quick with a wave, and cheerful little stores and shops. And while the first two can still be found all over the nation, that last one is becoming a bit of endangered species. Most cities – big and small – have the main street (even if it’s not called Main Street), but these days most of the mom-and-pop shops have disappeared. In many instances, they have been replaced by chain stores or big-box retailers. And that’s if there are any businesses left; thanks to online shopping, some physical stores are now harder to come by. Fortunately, a town like Galena, Illinois, is keeping the tradition of Main Street alive and well. Welcome to the Helluva Half Mile Currently, Galena’s population is only around 3,000, but at one time it actually rivaled Chicago for the liveliest city in Illinois. Though things have changed in the last 150 years, Galena can still boast a thriving downtown, modeled in part after the one in the Windy City. Chicago has its Magnificent Mile, and Galena […]

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“My Green Galena” – The Story of How a City Known for its Past is Reaching for the Future

Image credit: cityofgalena.org A citywide focus on sustainability is paying off – both in savings for Galena residents as well as statewide attention and an award from the governor Most people would say that Galena is known for its past. It’s a showcase for over 1,000 19th century buildings listed with the National Register of Historic Places, and Galena is home to former President Ulysses S Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Coming to light is more recent, history-making news. The city of Galena is also becoming known for its forward-thinking sustainability efforts. A program called “My Green Galena” is helping to meet current social, environmental, and economic needs for the Illinois community, without compromising the needs of future generations. Award-winning The City of Galena was awarded the Governor’s sustainability Award from the Office of the Governor in 2014. It was awarded in conjunction with the sustainable Technology Center of the University of Illinois. The accolade was presented to Galena in recognition of its demonstrated commitment to outstanding and innovative sustainability practices. An example of this sustainability is a project started in 2012 to build one of the nation’s largest municipal solar arrays. The city council had watched electricity […]

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Abraham Lincoln and Galena Have a Unique Connection

Find out when and where our 16th president visited Although he was barely into his second term when he was assassinated – April 15 marks the 153rd anniversary of his death – Abraham Lincoln is considered not only one of our greatest presidents, but one of the most beloved Americans in history. And while many people probably know at least a little about him, there are surely things that aren’t very well known. First of all, not a lot of people know where he is from. He wasn’t from Nebraska, as many think, though it – and actually dozens of other states – has a city named for him. Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Though he grew up there and in Indiana, he made a name for himself in Illinois. He, of course, became a prominent lawyer, a state politician, and eventually made his way to the White House. Lincoln and Grant It’s impossible to discuss Lincoln without mentioning Ulysses S. Grant, and vice versa. While they worked together to try to bring the Civil War to a close, during this time they also became friends. In fact, Grant was supposed to accompany the Lincolns to Ford’s Theatre on […]

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The Hallmark of 19th Century Architecture, and Why You’ll See it in Galena

Today, more than 1,000 of Galena’s 19th-century buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places, making about 85% of the city a natural historic district Recycling is something we think of as a modern-day effort, but it’s been around as a concept for quite some time. Take 19th-century architecture, for example. It was mostly a recycling of earlier styles. When we think of the period, we see revivals of Gothic, Greek, and Renaissance designs, fused with contemporary materials and methods. It’s an ode to nostalgia, and you’ll see amazing examples of 19th-century architecture in Galena. Style meets substance If you had to pick only two characteristics, to sum up, 19th-century architecture, it would have to be the use of new materials and building methods and the generous mixture of a variety of earlier historical styles. Many historians refer to the 19th-century architectural style as “eclecticism.” The architectural designers of the time generally held the belief that it was their responsibility to sustain the traditional styles of those who had come before them. Businesses and public buildings took on elements from earlier styles to communicate authority. Architects borrowed from the past wherever it seemed appropriate. While it might have been […]

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