Although this Autumn hasn’t been as colorful as some years, our leaf peeping day in Galena, Illinois, was certainly a lovely little vacation. The crisp air on our Galena River Trail stroll gave us good appetites for our picnic lunch. Grant Park above the river provided picturesque views while we enjoyed our lunch of Nova Lox and cream cheese sandwiches, strawberries and almond flavored macaroons.
A few properties listed on Realtor.com had piqued our interest, so we wandered every street and alley in Galena East in search of them. If architecture is of interest to you, Galena East provides examples of architectural styles reflecting mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century sensibilities. Our personal favorites were the cozy cottages.
One charming circa 1836 cottage had a plaque by the door which stated it had always been owned by the same family. I did a little census sleuthing and learned that the original owner was from Germany and a miner by profession. No doubt he was a lead miner as there were at least three large lead mines in the area at that time.
Galena mainly owed its growth to lead mining and even its name comes from the name for lead sulfide. During the years when lead mining was most prolific, Galena was accessible by steamboat connection to the main channel of the Mississippi River. Silting as a result of mining, dams and deforestation ended this direct transportation route. Excessive ma-and-pa lead mining operations eventually glutted the market, causing it to be an unprofitable enterprise in Galena. This was, of course, before lead sulfide was found to be useful as a semiconductor. Eighty percent of lead mined in American is still used in batteries.