815-777-3323
Image may be subject to copyright

Image may be subject to copyright
Our Top 3 Hidden Historical Gems

One of the biggest draws of Galena is how it's steeped in history. While we've never been big ‘history buffs', it's hard not to get drawn in to the amazing past that the area has.


Other places, you get the honor of reading a plaque or staring at an empty field to appreciate their history. In Galena, however, you get to experience it and interact with it - go into the houses, walk around the fort, see where the villages were built!

We could bore you with all the regular historic sites - Grant Home, The Old Market House, the Dowling House, and the History Museum. But those are all givens, you know about them, and plenty of other websites and blogs have beaten that dead horse enough to make Dostoyevsky feel like he needs to up his game. Read on to learn about some of the more ‘hidden' historical sites around Galena. Then you'll be the cool kid in town who knows about that sort of stuff.

Image may be subject to copyright
Washburne Exterior

Washburne House

Okay, so it's not really as hidden as it used to be but it's still not nearly as popular as it should be!

Elihu Washburne was a congressman in the mid-1800s and was very influential in getting both Lincoln and Grant elected to the presidency. It was in his home, just down the street from Aldrich Guest House, that Grant was on election night. A telegraph line had been run from the train depot to Washburne's house so that Grant could get news of the election returns ‘live' that evening since the 24-hour news cycle hadn't yet been invented. J. Russell Jones, who built the parlor side of our house was there with him when he won the election and rode the train to D.C. with Grant for the inauguration.

Because we think that the Washburne House is so cool, we've actually featured it in our blog already in an aptly titled entry called: Washburne House.

This home is only able to be toured on Friday and Saturday 10am-1pm, May through October but you can still walk around the outside and peep into the windows. Just don't leave any smudge marks!

Apple River Fort

Located in Elizabeth, just a 15 minute drive east of Galena, you can check out the Apple River Fort. Elizabeth used to be called Apple River but was renamed ‘Elizabeth' after three women named, you guessed it...Elizabeth!

The fort has been rebuilt to the original size which is shockingly small but then again, there were only a few dozen people that lived there. At one point on his warpath, Blackhawk came across Apple River Fort and seeing that it was so small figured it'd be an easy win. There were only a small handful of men to fire the muskets to defend the fort and muskets take a long time to reload plus they're not exactly a marksman's dream when it comes to accuracy. The women of the fort realized that things were not looking good and told the men that they'd be more than happy to shoot the muskets as well. Preferring to be massacred over having their masculinity threatened, the men laughed them off. Not willing to accept their fate, the women hatched a plan to save the fort. They'd ask the men to let them load the muskets, that way the men can shoot faster.  That plan was far less intimidating to the men's vigor so they agreed.  Well, it worked and Blackhawk didn't feel like it was worth the effort to take such a small fort so he continued on his way.

Stop at the interpretive center while you're there. They'll back up all this information, although they may put it far more gracefully!

Image may be subject to copyright
Building at a fort
Image may be subject to copyright
Path through prairie

Wapello Land and Water Reserve

Down in Hanover, about a 25 minute drive from Aldrich Guest House, is Wapello Land and Water Reserve. Hanover used to be called Wapello, named after a Fox Indian chief whose village was located there. There are 79 acres of prairie to enjoy here and is one of the largest prairie restoration projects in the Midwest - so significant that the Field Museum of Chicago has joined the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation in their efforts.

What's that you say? You thought these were historic sites we were blogging about?! Well, just hold your horses, we're getting to that part right now! During archaeological digs, artifacts from 1050AD have been found here. This site is where two different Native American tribes came together. While they shared resources, they maintained their separate cultures and traditions. You can read a lot more about these tribes and how they meshed yet remained individual at the Reserve, but suffice it to say that the land is so significant that it has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

And there you have it - three of our favorite ‘hidden' historical gems! Now, get out there and explore, discover, learn, and see things! Of course, we'd love to be your homebase while you explore the area and find hidden gems of your own, so give us a call or make your reservation online and we'll see you soon!

Robert and Douglas, Innkeepers/Owners


Planning a visit to Galena, Illinois? Make your reservation with us now to experience what makes us the next generation of bed and breakfasts. Afterall, if you're not staying at Aldrich Guest House, you haven't experienced the best Galena has to offer!
Check Availability