History

Visit Galesburg, Illinois

History

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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This church building, which sits on the city square, represents the early Galesburg settlers who founded the city and their church at the same time in 1837.  This specific building was completed in 1898 at a cost of $75,000 and is one of the best examples of Richardsonian Romanesque in…

Additional Info

  • Address 60 Public Square Galesburg, IL 61401
Galesburg has played an important part in American history and American politics. From the Lincoln - Douglas debate in 1858, Galesburg has been host to many standing presidents and even the residence of a young Ronald Reagan.
Throughout much of its history, Galesburg has been inextricably tied to the rail industry. Local businessmen were major backers of the first railroad to connect Illinois' two biggest cities at that time – Chicago and Quincy. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway is the largest employer in Galesburg and…
Lombard College was establishing in 1851, the same year the railroad arrived in Galesburg. The college was the second school to admit women on the same terms as men for collegiate degrees and was the first college to grant an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree to a woman. The Lombard…
The names of the towns in west-central Illinois are as familiar as the roads that connect them, but the stories behind those names reveal the area's unique history. Some settlements named after their founders, such as Galesburg, or their founder's hometowns, such as Abingdon. Others, such as Maquon and Dahinda,…
Dorothea Tanning was a leading surrealist painter of the 1930s and also made significant contributions in sculpture, writing and theatrical design. She was born August 25, 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois and passed away in her Manhattan, New York home on January 31, 2012. She lived to be 101 years old.…
Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, to parents of Swedish ancestry on January 8, 1878. At the age of thirteen he left school and during his teen years worked various labor jobs. Sandburg volunteered for the military during the Spanish–American War but never saw battle. Sandburg returned to Galesburg…
Galesburg and Knox College were founded in 1837 by anti-slavery advocates who came to Knox County from upstate New York. George Washington Gale and many of the early founders were abolitionists and set the tone for the new town and neighboring communities. Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society…
Six miles east. Historic buildings—including a log cabin, old school house, jail, and the 1830s Walnut Grove Barn. www.kville.org
Ninety miles southwest. Mormon settlement with restored shops and homes—including the houses of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and the rebuilt temple. www.historicnauvoo.net www.beautifulnauvoo.com
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