Tourists to historic Galena, Illinois sometimes find more than the old world charm of a Civil War era town. They sometimes see ghosts, too.
Galena, Illinois, like many other historically-significant industrial revolution cities, was once in danger of dying out economically. A major player in U.S. lead production, the town was nearly decimated when the demand for lead ore took a dive.
It certainly was not for lack of character. The town and area had long been known for its culture and historical significance. A walk down the city’s main street is something akin to stepping back over a hundred years in time.
It still bears much of the architecture that was common place in the early 1900’s. One can’t help but feel lost in the past amidst the tall, brown brick structures.
Groups like the Galena Historical Society have worked hard over the years to preserve and maintain many of the town’s historical structures. Many of the area’s artifacts are held in the Galena History Museum.
A large number of these artifacts relate to the lead mining industry or the Civil War. Interpreters there explain their significance in local culture.
Serious efforts to revive the town began around the early 1980’s. It was during these years that many downtown businesses, some of which had been located there for decades, began closing or relocating. City and tourism officials were alarmed and began to look for ways to bring business, and visitors, back to the downtown area.
Officials and residents knew that Galena, Illinois had a great deal to offer, thanks to its colorful history. Sites like Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant’s former home, Dowling House and the Belvedere Mansion give visitors a taste of yesteryear. Tourists get a glimpse of what it was like to live there over 100 years ago.
City, tourism and representatives of the business community began meeting to pool ideas for increasing Galena’s popularity. These efforts have given rise to a number of community initiatives, like Vision 2020; meant to generate interest and business in the city. Vision 2020 hopes to implement a number of new community-generated ideas by the year 2020.
Another unique tourist attraction borne out of the pooling of minds was the Haunted Galena Tour. Conceived by the owners of the Annie Wiggins Guest House, it was designed to personalize the history of the town.
Tourists, whether staying at the bed and breakfast or not, are able to take a foot tour of the town. The tour is led by the fictional “Annie Wiggins”, a “ghost” of Galena, Illinois. The tour treks throughout historic downtown Galena, visiting many of the areas “haunts”, like Dowling House and the local cemetery.
Both public initiatives, like Vision 2020, and private ventures like the “Haunted Galena Tour” have done a great deal for the town. They have injected a new vibrancy into the business community, which enjoys a healthy rate of tourism year-round.
Today, many of Galena, Illinois’ old structures have been revived to keep the ghosts of miners and the Civil War pacified. After all, it is these “ghosts” that so many people are now coming to the city to “see”. The ghosts, in fact, may be exactly what have kept it from becoming a “ghost town”.