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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The cornerstone of this sandstone building was laid in 1884 and construction was completed in 1886 at a cost of $150,000. The ornate details are typical of the Romanesque period. To the west of the Court House is Standish Park Arboretum with over 170 trees and shrubs.
Author-poet Carl Sandburg was born here in a three room cottage on January 6, 1878. From these humble beginnings, Sandburg went on to achieve international acclaim for his poetry, children’s stories, and a six volume biography of Abraham Lincoln. A Visitors’ Center and gift shop is located next to the…
Seminary Street Historic Commercial District is one of the Midwest's stunning success stories in downtown restoration. Buildings once nearly abandoned now thrive with restaurants, distinctive specialty shops, a day spa, coffee roastery and a bakery. Antiques and collectibles from some of the Midwest's finest dealers can be found at The…
Experience railroading of the early 1900s at the new Galesburg Railroad Museum building that sits next to the Amtrak Depot. The building holds an extensive collection of railroad memorabilia on view for the public to see. Take a tour through the restored passenger engine built in 1930 by the Baldwin…
Old Main's construction in 1857 reflected the prosperity that the new railroad began bringing to Galesburg three years earlier. It is the sole remaining original site of the great Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. The debate was staged against the east wall of Old Main, and two large bronze plaques with…

This is the most common type of Victorian house. This style combines many elements of all the different styles. Most houses have one style that is predominant with different styles mixed in. Builders liked to blend styles seeking originality and harmony. The Victorians recognized that a building had to both serve a function and be pleasing to the eye at the same time.

These are very symmetrical and the doors and windows are equally spaced. They have a flat, boxy profile and have various assortments of lunettes (semi-circle shaped windows), porticos which are smaller than those typical of Greek, but are still fairly good sized, summer porches that might be screened in, porte-cocheres (an open garage with no walls to keep people dry when getting in and out of their carriages), double-sash windows with shutters, and narrow clapboard siding. This style is really common in the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas of the US.

This is a nearly seamless box of a townhouse, usually made of brick or stone and kind of drab. This type does not have much trim and was probably only popular because only the rich could afford to build a house like this. They tended to be in sophisticated cities where the rich people would live.

This is usually associated with summer homes, but there are some regular houses with this style. They are a rambling, asymmetrical concoction of large verandas, projecting towers, and bay windows. They have exaggerated structural detailing, and are very individualistic and you see a little bit of everything. They are designed to relate to the outdoors and are informal and have a peaceful, tranquil, homey persona.

This style is usually a tall, narrow house. They have symmetrical proportions, with or without a mansard roof, a two or three story tower in front. This is mostly an urban design which is good for lots that are narrow and have limited space and light. This style is a painter's nightmare with all of the elaborate window framing, paneled frieze boards under a bracketed cornice (paneled trim under a bracketed roof), roof trim, gingerbread, and are very ornate and fancy.

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