Visit Galesburg, Illinois


History (51)

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Galesburg Historic Home Tour

Galesburg Historic Home Tour (18)

The Galesburg area is an exceptional blend of history and distinctive architecture. This blend is very evident in the homes lining the avenues and streets of this community. Many of the prominent early leaders built homes that stand to today as a reminder of their commitment to building a city of statue.

Below, you can view a sampling of these great homes and their historical significance. Information and brochures are available for more extensive tours of many more homes and historical architecture in the Galesburg area through the Galesburg Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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Area History

Area History (22)

History is rich in the beautiful rolling prairies of this northwest central Illinois city. Knox County was established January 13, 1825, by the state legislature, and the first known settlers arrived in 1826.

The county was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero General Henry Knox, who was Secretary of War from 1785 to 1795.

Galesburg is a unique town in that it was a planned city whose purpose was fostering religious education. Knox College was the main reason for its existence. The college was granted a charter by the Illinois State Legislature in 1837, but it was not until 1841 that it opened its doors to the first freshman class.

Old Main was completed in 1851 and has the distinction of being the only building still standing where a Lincoln-Douglas debate was held, the fifth and most famous of the debates.

It has historical ties to the railroad, too, with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy) coming to the City in 1854. Funding for the linking of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy (CB & Q) Railroad came from a Galesburg investor, beginning a rail history that still lives today. The CB & Q later merged with other railroads to form what is now Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. Because of that Galesburg investor's commitment, Galesburg has seven main rail lines coming in and out of the City. Galesburg still prides itself in its railroad history, with several museums and a festival devoted solely to the railroad.

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Galesburg Historic Church Tour

Galesburg Historic Church Tour (10)

Downtown Churches

Galesburg’s history is directly tied to the many church congregations that began in the 1800’s.  Most of these churches are located downtown and represent the spirit of commitment our early settlers had in establishing Galesburg as viable community.  The church architecture is also a testament to the devotion these people had to making life in Galesburg a rich experience.  Today, many of these downtown churches are used by local fine arts groups for performances and concerts.

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The Mother Bickerdyke Monument at Galesburg, IllinoisBy Barbara SchockI have a commission from the Lord God Almighty to do all I can for every miserable creature who comes in my way; he is always sure of two friends, God and me.---Mother Bickerdyke. Located at the Knox County Court House 200…
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 12:00


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The Andover Historical Society Museum was built in 1861 by Eric Berglof as a private residence for the August Rehnstrom family. It also served as a temporary haven for Swedish immigrants in the early settlement of Andover. After purchasing the building in 1967, the historical society members worked night and day to ready the building for its formal opening in 1968.

There are five furnished rooms and a hall on the upper floor. The ground floor has four rooms, a small old-fashioned pantry and a hall with an open staircase. With the exception of the display room, the house is furnished with items from the 1860's. You can see pictures and paintings by folk artist Helen Brodd of Andover’s Steam Mill and old Tavern, which was built in 1879; the first two-story school, built in 1858; the old jailhouse; and the Andover Orphanage and Children’s Home, to name a few. There is is a summer kitchen on the back lawn. The Historical Museum is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. It is located on Locust St., across the street from the west side of the Andover Lake Park, and is open during Andover’s Festival the first weekend in June, and for group tours by calling: 309 476-8228, 309 845-0168, or 309 521-8659.


The American Woman’s (AWL) League Chapter House in Andover was designed by a St. Louis architectural firm. It was built in 1911-1912 at a cost of $1,200, fully paid by U.S. publisher Edwin S. Lewis of St. Louis. The building materials used was natural woods, stucco and brick. The dominant horizontal character of the chapter houses reflected the contemporary architectural qualities of the "prairie style" which had recently evolved out of the Chicago school of architects led by Frank Lloyd Wright. The building materials and interior details exemplified the ideals of the arts and crafts movement taking place in America at that time.

The American Woman’s League was a political and social organization created to promote feminist causes, particularly the women’s suffrage movement. A chapter could be formed if there were enough members in proportion to the community’s population. Lewis would build a chapter house if a chapter obtained a lot for it. The members of this chapter house were generally poor people who strained all their resources to come in on the ground floor.

The AWL building became the hub of social life during the next few years; and, later was used by the Andover American Legion and Auxiliary as a meeting house, the Andover School District as part of its school buildings, and as a private residence. In 1981, this building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. In 1986, a fire caused extensive damage to the then private residence. Shortly after the blaze, the Andover Historical Society purchased the building and had it restored to look as close to the original as it could be made. It is used as a meeting house for the Historical Society and to display historical items. The building is located on Locust St., across the street from the west side of the Andover Lake Park, and is open during Andover’s Festival the first weekend in June, and for group tours by calling: 309 476-8228, 309 845-0168, or 309 521-8659.


The Jenny Lind Chapel in Andover, which is the “Mother Church” of the former Augustana Lutheran Church in America, had its beginning in 1850 when a group of ten Swedish Lutheran immigrants established a congregation under the leadership of the Rev. Lars Paul Esbjörn. Jenny Lind, the famous 19th century Swedish singer, donated $1,500 so the congregation could start the building she never saw. Construction wasn’t easy. Lumber, which was to have been used for the church was lost when cholera struck, and the lumber was used to make coffins. The basement of the church became a hospital for the people with cholera. A brickyard was established in the colony, but heavy rains destroyed the bricks.

Not until the fall of 1854 was the church so near completion that it could be formally dedicated. The church was built in the most plain and prosaic form. There was no hint of churchly architecture. The building served as a dwelling for many of the immigrants who could find no other place to live when they first arrived. Very few churches were built in the midst of such sorrow, pain, and tears. The Chapel without a steeple and a bell attracted thousands of Swedish immigrants to Andover. The Chapel also was where the Norwegian-Danish Lutheran Church in America was organized in 1870.

The Jenny Lind Chapel was dedicated as a shrine of the Evangelical Augustana Church in America in 1948. In the early 1970's, a local committee raised $40,000 to renovate the Chapel. It was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. An immigrant museum is housed in the basement. It is located one block south of IL Route 81 in the west part of Andover, and is open every day from 9 AM – 5 PM April – October.

Carl Sandburg grew up with music. His father, August, truly loved it. He bought an accordion and learned to play one tune which he repeated often. A few years later, the family purchased a pump organ which Carl's older sister, Mary, learned to play. Clara Sandburg, his mother, often sang…
George Washington Gale arrived in Illinois in the mid 1830s with a colony of people from upstate New York to establish Galesburg and Knox College. These serious minded people were mostly Presbyterians and Congregationalists. Once they had settled in Western Illinois, they committed themselves to establishing their schools. The education…
Timeline from 1826-1892 This survey of Knox College history was prepared by Grant Forssberg '09 for a special research project on College history. Click on photos to view larger images and on related links to learn more about the people, places, and events that have impacted Knox College over the…
This congregation was organized in 1906 and purchased this building from St. John's Episcopal Church, which was built in 1891 and situated on the SE corner of Kellogg & Ferris Streets. The building has undergone extensive remodeling several times during their history and contains a Möller pipe organ with 30+…

Additional Info

  • Address 304 East Ferris Street Galesburg, IL 61401
The first American Methodist Society organized in Galesburg in 1847. After a series of moves precipitated by fire, this church built on its present location in 1911 at the NW corner of Kellogg & Ferris Streets. The church sanctuary has beautiful stain glass windows.

Additional Info

  • Address 120 North Kellogg Street Galesburg, IL 61401
First Christian Church has been located at Broad & North Streets since 1916. The church congregation was founded in April of 1892. The present church still has a Möller pipe organ dedicated in 1928.

Additional Info

  • Address 301 N. Broad St. - Galesburg, IL, 61401
Located at Cherry & Tompkins Streets this church building was designed by William E. Wolf. This massive native stone edifice features large stone window arches and stone carving above the entry. The church was built during 1893 and houses a large sanctuary that seats with a wraparound balcony that seats…

Additional Info

  • Address 169 South Cherry Street Galesburg, IL 61401
The First Lutheran Evangelical Church was organized in 1851.  The present building located at Seminary & Water Streets was completed in 1928.  The cost of construction including a pipe organ and furnishings was more than $235,000.  The architecture typifies a practical adaptation of Gothic style found in early Swedish churches.

Additional Info

  • Address Seminary & Water Street Galesburg, IL 61401
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