Most of the time visitor centers are just dispensers of local information. Occasionally they’re more, as in real attractions. I recently wrote about one of these, the Northeast Wyoming Visitor Center just west of South Dakota’s Black Hills. Ruth & I saw another quality VC on the same journey in Galena, Il. Not only is it a genuine welcome center, it’s also a credible museum in a historic building, the Old Market House.
When Galena, the city that refused to die and reinvented itself in the 20th century as a tourist magnet, was a frontier river port and lead mining center on the Mississippi in the 19th century, this building was both the city market and its government center with 2 jail cells. Built in 1845, this Greek Revival building is at 123 North Commerce Street. According to Wikipedia it contained 12 “enclosed farmer’s market stalls”. Now it’s a State Historic Site.
The current display in the Old Market House contains lots of Ulysses S. Grant memorabilia and information about Galena’s 9 Civil War generals. Worth seeing are 40 Currier & Ives prints depicting Civil War battles, a Civil War chess set, Grant’s own buggy sporting his travel trunk, and some 19th century coins. Grant was an enthusiastic international traveler. Galena was home to 9 Civil War generals including Grant. No other town produced so many honored military figures who rose to general status during the Civil War. That’s Grant, his wife, and 3 children depicted in a painting in his Galena home.