Points West: Galena plans tour of historic homes Sept. 23-24

GALENA—There is nowhere lovelier than the Galena area in the fall, and no event that speaks of the history of this charming 19th-century town like the September Tour of Historic Galena Homes.

In its 39th annual home tour, the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society will showcase four beautiful private homes, plus the Galena History Museum, housed in an 1858 mansion.

From a stone cottage to a magnificent Queen Anne, the residences will be open to the public Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 23-24, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine.

Tucked away in a quiet, wooded setting on Galena’s east side, the 1850s Federal-style brick Hillside House is easy to miss. Two additions and extensive terracing and gardens give this home an unusual layout and an eclectic ambiance. Dining room windows look onto a private grotto, and the family room has a dramatic, massive wall of natural bedrock stone. Victorian and Eastlake family pieces furnish the formal living room and cottage-style bedroom. The rest of the house features primitive pine furniture and a vast collection of Norwegian antiques and heirlooms, reflecting the owners’ ethnic heritage. The owners, in authentic Norwegian costumes, will be on hand to greet you as you experience this first-time tour home that’s a feast for the eyes.

Situated on a quiet lot at the northern reach of Park Avenue is the Ridd House. Built in 1891, it was one of the first homes in the west to feature steam heat throughout, with the radiators still in use today. Much of the fine millwork created at the family-owned sash and door factory can still be seen today at the Queen Anne Guest House, as the home is now known. As they tour its four guest rooms, visitors will experience the elegance of Victorian times among the many antique furnishings in this grand Queen Anne-style “Painted Lady.”

Wonderfully secluded on two large private wooded lots, the 1847 Fullington-Duffin Cottage is steeped in African-American history. Built by Elizabeth Fullington, this cottage adjoined the AME (African Methodist Episcopalian) Church built in 1844 (gone by early 1870s). Unlike the majority of her race in those days, Fullington was born of free parents, never knew slavery and received an education. Her brother, James C. Embry, was converted to her faith while visiting his sister in Galena in 1855, licensed to preach in 1856, became a bishop and was one of the most prominent men of colored race in America. Fullington married freedman John Duffin in 1864. At the time of her death in 1891, she was the oldest “colored” resident of Galena, having lived here since 1844. The current owners purchased the cottage in 2004. Their artistic stenciling and fine primitive antiques make this cozy cottage a delightful first-time tour home.

The Fahrig-McGuire House was built in 1853 on property used as a stone quarry. The small, two-story stone cottage was in a sad state of disrepair until the current owner acquired it in 2001. Four years of restoration followed. An addition, nestled partially into the hillside to minimize its visual impact, is connected to the original stone house by a small breezeway, making the stone portion stand out on its own and not be overwhelmed. Remnant details from the stone house were used to replicate doors, windows and millwork for the addition. Restoration glass and reconditioned 150-year-old interior hardware maintain the spirit of the original stone house. Furnished primarily with 19th-century American antiques, with a few 17th- and 18th-century English pieces added to the mix, the historic Fahrig-McGuire House, with its sensitive modern addition, will surely delight the public in its home tour debut.

Free admission to the Galena History Museum will be part of the tour and will include a behind-the-scene guided tour of the mansion/museum’s non-public areas.

The September Tour of Historic Galena Homes is sponsored by the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society. Tickets are $12; children younger than 10 are free with an adult. Tickets are available at the Old Train Depot Visitor Information Center at 100 Bouthillier St., the DeSoto House Hotel at 230 S. Main St., the history museum at 211 S. Bench St. and any home on the tour. A free shuttle service will operate between all tour homes and ticket stops. Some walking is required and there are several steep driveways, so comfortable footwear is advised. More info, contact the Galena-Jo Daviess County Historical Society at 815-777-9129 or info@galenahistorymuseum.org. For visitor information, including lodging availability, dining, shopping, attractions and more, call the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-877-464-2536 or visit www.galena.org.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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