Galena is the county seat and largest city of Jo Daviess County, Illinois in the United States, with a population of 3,429 in 2010. The city is a popular tourist destination known for its history, historical architecture, and ski and golf resorts. Galena was the residence of Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals, as well as several entertainers and politicians.
Galena has a rich history that is visible in the city's architecture. Originally inhabited by Sac and Fox Native Americans, by the late 17th century, the French began to settle in the area. In the early 19th century, American settlers began to arrive. Following a sharp decline in the demand for lead (which had been the city's chief income source during the early 19th century), Galena's population dropped from 14,000 in the mid-19th century, to 3,396 in the early 21st century.
Once one of the most important cities in the state, Galena was a hub on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and St. Paul. Due to erosion, the Galena River is now inaccessible to steamboats. Galena received national attention in the 1860s as home of General Ulysses S. Grant.
The city is named for the mineral "galena", the natural form of lead sulfide and the most important lead ore. Native Americans, including the Sac and Fox tribes, mined the ore in Galena for use in body painting. In the 1690s, French trappers discovered the area and began mining the lead.
American settlers arrived in the area in the early 19th century. George Davenport, a retired colonel in the United States Army, successfully shipped Galena's first boatload of lead ore down the Mississippi River in 1816. Three years later a trading post was built in Galena that led to the first steamboat arrival in 1824. By 1845 Galena was producing nearly 27,000 tons of lead ore and Jo Daviess County was producing 80 percent of the lead in the United States.
Until the late 1980s, Galena remained a small rural farming community. In 1990, local industries included a Kraft Foods cheese plant, Lemfco Foundry, John Westwick's foundry, and Microswitch, Inc. In the 1980s, Galena Mayor Frank Einsweiler initiated a tourist campaign. Since that time the face of Galena has changed a great deal. Long-standing businesses in the downtown area including Stair's Grocery, Sullivan's Grocery, Clingman's Pharmacy, the oldest continuously operating pharmacy in Illinois, and Hartig Drug have closed their downtown locations. Clingman's and Hartig's have relocated to the outskirts of Galena, while Stair's and Sullivan's closed their doors permanently. In late 2010, Clingman's joined the Hartig's family and moved their pharmacy to Hartig's Drugs location along Highway 20.
The Country Fair in Grant Park has helped guide the change to a tourist town. It is a craft show that attracts thousands of visitors to the area. The once boarded-up Main Street buildings have also been given a rejuvenation in the past two decades.
In 2010 Galena started a campaign called Vision2020, that is modeled after neighbor Dubuque, Iowa's Vision 2010, a committee which gives the community five ideas out of hundreds brought forth in the community that they want Galena to do in the next decade.
Galena has many parades that attract tourism. In 2010, the 32nd annual Halloween Parade attendance was estimated at 15,000.
In 2011, TripAdvisor listed Galena among its top-ten "Charming Small Towns".