Grant Park in Galena, Illinois

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of this busy little town and not look at the whole picture. I don’t know about any of you, but when I see something in front of me, I tend to feed off the energy of that moment or thing, and I don’t take the time to look around the main event. For example, when I shop at garage sales, I see an item and it’s like my tractor beam hones in on it and doesn’t let go until I have it safely in my hands and THEN I look around my surroundings. Same happened here in Galena, trying to find parking, as it was VERY busy this past September (a good thing and a cautious thing with Covid) and I was too concerned on actually getting A spot that I didn’t pay attention to where my spot laid.

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After I had walked the entire downtown area of Galena, ate at Fried Green Tomatoes, toured the Dowling House, I was pooped and headed to my car. Then I saw some folks walking up a staircase over the grassy hills that I was parked against. Curiosity ALWAYS getting the best of me, I decided to muster up any energy I had left, and check out what was up there.

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As you ascend the staircase, you come across a lovely bridge lined with American flags. I headed over on it, I could see the train tracks beneath me and thought “What a cool view of a train coming” since it’s usually from my car at a stop that I see them most.  I would be blessed to catch a train coming through minutes later, loving every second of it. Also the view of the Town from the bridge is breathtaking, I suggest taking the time to enjoy it.

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On the other side of the bridge lies “Grant Park” which is named after Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th President, who lived in Galena. The Park has rolling hills of green grass with a cute gazebo, a statue to the President himself, a pavilion and fountain.  A wonderful escape from the business of town, and a nice break under the shade of the beautiful trees.  I think we take parks for “GRANTed”….. thanks, I’ll be here all week, try the veal.  But seriously, we don’t appreciate these parks sometimes.  As a kid, all I did was lay under a tree and wonder what my adult life would look like, would I have a family, what would I be. We need these parks for our sanity, for the peace they bring without screens, without technology. Although I did take all these pics posted on my IPhone, videos too, so yeah, I know, it’s hard to put the tech toys away.

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Would I recommend the park? I’ll always encourage a sit, a break, a spot of time to just “be” for awhile without purpose or work.  I think this is a wonderful spot for yourself or the family to plop down on a blanket, look at the clouds, and feel the wind tickle your nose. Check it out and enjoy!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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The Dowling House…Galena, IL

I don’t know what it is about old homes that I just fall in love with- the architecture, the history, or the feel they bring. There hasn’t been an old mansion or home that I have toured without feeling eyes on me- friend or foe, who knows, but ALWAYS felt. So as I toured the beautiful town of Galena, I came across the “Dowling House.” An attraction for this sleepy little town, it boasts that it is the oldest home in the area, built in 1826.  To me, anything from the 1800’s seems to have something attached to it that hasn’t left. I saw this as a challenge- tour something historic, old, and maybe catch something (hopefully not Covid).

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There is a small building next to the home, located up the hill off of the Main Street and adjacent from the Restaurant “Fried Green Tomatoes.” Here you can purchase your ticket for a scheduled time to tour the home with a Guide.  My group had maybe 10 people in it, social distancing with masks on, as I tried to stay away from people in the confined space of the small home. There is a steep staircase in it, so it is not wheelchair friendly, as I always try to observe when touring places like these. Even with the small group, I found myself hanging back after every room so I could take the time for pics and videos. Not a fan when a tour rushes you through it so quickly that you had no time to enjoy taking pics because you had to keep up all the time. My guide was great and gave all of us plenty of time to look and explore. He shared a story of a family member who passed and that the family was so devastated that when the man was buried in the Cemetery across town, they made his tombstone so tall that it could be seen from the home on the hill- and you could see it from the upstairs windows. Pretty neat.

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Built all of limestone, John Dowling’s home was the scene of the only trading post in town. Fur trading and selling of goods in the lower part of his home, the second floor hosting his modest living quarters. He would go on to build his company right across from his home, which still stands there today.  My tour guide was informative and patient, and it only cost $10 to take it.  I was allowed to film and take pictures inside with permission as of September 2020 (Yes, ASK! I have been on MANY a tour that do NOT let you take photos inside historic buildings). Many ghost tours in town will make this place a stop to check out, so of course I made sure to walk by it in the evening as well- gave off quite the creep vibe!

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If you’re in town, this is definitely a cool thing to check out. I wouldn’t make a trip JUST for it, but Galena alone is worth the travels. Check it out and enjoy!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!1

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My Visit to Galena, Illinois

I love little towns, there is something to their charm of Main Streets lined with Bistros and Cafes. I love the feeling of community as those around you enjoy their ice cream cones and specialty coffees. Sure, you can probably get the same kind of feels at a Target, but nothing beats that hometown feel- especially when you can actually FIND parking!

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I visited Galena on September 13th, 2020, looking for fun in the Fall. Covid still very much a thing, still now it is, so I am always careful and picky about what my next venture is. Trying to get my IL bucket list checked off for 2020, I decided this was a now or never. Again, it IS 2020, Godzilla could be coming ‘round the corner any minute, so why waste a second? Let’s go!

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First, let’s talk about this town and the “Jurassic Park” gate they have to their Main Street…yeah, no joke. Because they are on a major waterway, they have a flood gate for the town, and it was a first for me to see.  How convenient when the Town just wants to be closed. What caught me off guard after the flood gate were the amount of people here, it was a busy little town! Most everyone masked, it was a beautiful 70 degree day, and I had a heck of a time finding parking. Hot tip for those headed there, park BEHIND the Main Street on the RIGHT as you head in, lots of parking there along the foot hill of “Grant Park.”

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I was excited because I had a ghost tour that night, so I just had to keep myself busy with a little light shopping and some bites at a local snack. Because of Covid, I get to play this game called “Can I eat inside or not?”  Thankfully they had pretty much everything open, and nothing says early lunch like a tasty treat, so I walked myself and I to the old fashioned Ice Cream Parlor and ordered me up my favorite ice cream- peppermint stick in a cone. You see back in Sheboygan, at the Mall there used to be an Ice Cream Parlor and as a kid my favorite ice cream was as such, and it just ties all the feels with that refreshing taste.

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I then came across a spooky store with dark tales of ghosts and ghouls…another touring company in partakings- it was so much fun to talk to them that I was there for what felt like a good hour. I told them I would’ve taken their tour instead but they weren’t offering it that evening, and they told me that due to Covid, they had been limited in their offerings. If I happen upon the town again, I will definitely do theirs. (Amelia’s Ghost Tours bailed on me because I was the only one on the tour and she didn’t want to do it just for me, even though I had paid ahead of time, so she cancelled. Buyer beware!) I wound up just checking out the Cemeteries in town and doing my own ghost hunting on the side. Even came past the tombstone “FELT” and the name came through my app- pretty cool!

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I loved “Poopsies”- a fun and light shop of travel goodies, kids toys, and kitschy stuff. My favorite being a National Parks map they had, I will own it one day, oh yes, I will.  Of course I had to grab a magnet and sticker here too, wanted to remember the day.  “The Root Beer Revelry” was a whole store full of fun soda flavors and root beers- reminded me of “Pops” on Route 66.  Candy and popcorn stores made everything smell sweet in town, until you got near the “Log Cabin” which just made your mouth water. I wound up having dinner at “Fried Green Tomatoes” which was referred to me- it was beautiful place where I had a window seat to the Dowling home. The oldest house in town, I toured it that day as well, VERY old and very cool. Dinner was lasagna- nothing over the top fancy, it was lasagna, but it was the ambience and I was tired, that made it worth the stop.

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Grant Park sits behind the Main Street, it’s well worth the time to go and check it out- along with the trains that come through.  Beautiful old homes decorate the hilly landscape of the town, like a Christmas town you would put together at home. Take the time to drive around and see the old cemeteries, the historic homes like Grant’s, and of course take a tour of DeSoto House Hotel.  You are WALKING among the steps of Lincoln and Grant…amazing. From the history to the shopping, the dining to the ghosts, this is an amazing town with a HUGE heart. Check it out!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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The DeSoto House Hotel

Upon planning my trip to Galena in Illinois, I had come across the DeSoto House Hotel and immediatedly got excited. Why? Well I had heard it was quite haunted because of the rich history that happened in and outside this famous building AND because good old  Abe Lincoln had been here himself!  If you have followed my travels this past year, I have had an ongoing series called “The Love of Lincoln” and it basically traces his steps all over IL. So I was happy to add another piece of the puzzle to that, AND so much more history that I would uncover.

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Let’s start with the DeSoto House Hotel itself, makes sense since that’s the title. Sitting on the corner of Main Street in Galena, it commands your precense in it’s shadow. Opening on April 9th, 1855, it was financed by the “Galena Hotel Company” and named after the founder of the great Mississippi, DeSoto. Upon it’s grand opening, it was billed as the “Largest Hotel in the West” and at first glance, you can see why. Even with two floors now missing, its still quite large and grand. On it’s opening day it had 225 guest rooms, a ladies parlor, gentleman’s room, dining hall and full kitchen. Later was added retail stores, a saloon, offices, and a bowling alley. 

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John C. Parks would go on to furnish the Hotel with ravish furnishings and velvet carpets. With this now in place, this was THE Hotel to be at in the Midwest. Hence why Abraham Lincoln would choose it to speak on the Main Street balcony on July 23rd, 1856 in favor of John Fremont’s bid for Presidency.  Two years later on July 25th, Stephen A. Douglas spoke from the same balcony.  Then on September 13th, 1860, a crowd gathered at the Hotel in support of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency bid- a VERY famous balcony indeed!

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After the Civil War, Ulysses S Grant came back to his hometown of Galena, bringing 25,000 people to the downtown area. Can you imagine? They had parades and parties as the welcomed him home, with a grand ball at the DeSoto House Hotel! I mean if those walls could talk…the history they have seen. And if you really want to be a part of history, request rooms 209 or 211, where Grant held his Presidential Campaign.

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Once the railroads took over the steamboat industry, this beautiful little town and the Hotel would take an economic hit. On top of that, a fire broke out at the Hotel only four years after it had opened along with their steam boiler exploding later in 1869. They kept the Hotel afloat by using it as the centerpiece for the big events in town, including the welcoming of soldiers home- it must have been an incredible sight to see!

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Over time it would be rented, renovated, several times over, until it became what it is today.  The biggest change were removal of the top two floors in 1880 and moving the Tavern to the other side in 1883. With millions in renovations in the 1970s and 1980s, the DeSoto now houses 55 guest rooms, a ballroom, three dining areas, a full food court with atrium, a really cool tavern, and the General’s Restaurant which named the rooms after the famous Generals.   Rooms run $139 and up… check them out at desotohouse.com.

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Is it haunted? Heck yeah! How could it not be? Several of the ghost tours in town will take you through it, and you can also grab a free walking tour guide, which is what I did so I could just take my time and explore. It’s a beautiful hotel and I would love to stay here someday. It is in a GREAT location on Main Street, and with this Town still a busy place today in 2020, it would be great to stay in the middle of the action!  The balcony that that made this place so famous still exists and I couldn’t stop staring it, seeing Abe’s ghost standing there. On a side note, many celebrities have stayed at DeSoto, including Tom Thumb of Circus fame (and the dork in me who LOVED Greatest Showman was excited about this!!). I highly encourage you to book a stay, enjoy the downtown area, and experience the beauty of Galena through this amazing piece of history.

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Thank you for your support!!!

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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The Ghost Story of “The Italian Bride”

Most of us enjoy a good yarn spun around a campfire, or these days, by the light of our cellphones. I was intrigued when I heard this story because of the proof they had to back it up. I can tell you that every ghost story I have heard, there is always a lady in white, walking a road somewhere, and ALWAYS after midnight. And when you hear them over and over again, you become kind of numb to them. The excitement isn’t really there anymore because there are SO MANY out there now, that you can’t keep straight half of them anymore…until her.

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Her name was Julia Buccola Petta, born March 17th, 1892. She would go on to marry in her 20s and become a house wife to her beloved husband, Mattew Petta. Unfortunately, she would die during childbirth at the age of 29, giving birth to a stillborn son. She was buried in Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, IL, in her wedding dress (with her son), with a picture on her tomb of her in it on her wedding day. The story goes that her mother, Filomena Buccola, starting having nightmares where her beloved daughter was telling her that she was still alive! After 6 years of these dreams, Filomena got permission to exhume her daughter’s body. When they brought the coffin up, they could see it was disheveled and decomposed. BUT when it was opened…. she was in pristene condition except for her son and the arm that held him. Her mother actually took a picture of her daughter and what she saw….and it is ON THE TOMBSTONE!!!! They don’t have any real explanation for such great condition of the body but that they think back in those days that with the right ebalming liquids and an air tight coffin, decomposing would move at a slower rate. OR she’s a vampire. Who knows.

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Whats also interesting is that she was buried under her maiden name, not married name, and no mention of the child’s name that she had bore and eternally slept with. Rumors are that there may have been some beef with mom-in-law and the son-in-law, as happens, and once he got remarried, I’m sure Mom didn’t want any trace of him on her stone. The Mother also rests next to her now.

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And with any ghost story, they said you can see her walking among the stones in her area, or along the drive inside the Cemetery. Her stone is a full-size statue of herself in her wedding gown, along with her “live” and “afterlife” pictures on the stones. I can say looking at the photos I was creeped out, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she was hanging out in there, maybe chatting it up with Al Capone, who knows? To find her for yourself and pay your respects, you can find her in the Northeast corner of the cemetery, coming in from Harrison Street and taking an immediate left. She is right across from the offices and can’t be missed. Enjoy your visit!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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The Most Haunted City in Illinois…Mineral Springs Hotel

RoadTripLogoAs part of my day in this haunted City, I headed to the Mineral Springs Hotel, downtown Alton, located on 301 E Broadway (it takes up the entire corner, can’t miss it!). Opened in 1914, it was the grandest Hotel in the region, boasting the largest swimming pool in Illinois!  Built and created by successful meat packers, the Luer brothers, the hotel was not the only itention. They had planned to open a storage plant for ice, but upon digging into the ground, they came across the Mineral Springs.  Because the water had a strong sulfer smell, they got it into their heads that it must be “medicinal” and then sold this as “treatments.” rsz_img_0128

What most people don’t know is that the water bottling plant was built in 1913, FIVE levels below the street level! Then the Hotel was built ON TOP of this, layer by layer, making this building a complex mess. As the “healing waters” were bottled below, they finished the 100 room, in an Italian style above. Because of these magical waters,  Alton became a very popular town through out the 1920’s. rsz_img_0116rsz_img_0122rsz_img_0114

 

Due to time and life, August Luer sold the hotel in 1926,  where it continued to thrive until the 60’s when the hotel became over run by transients.  Closed in 1971, it was all set to be condemned, but in 1978, Roger Schubert bought the building and developed it into a shopping mall. rsz_img_0132rsz_img_0107rsz_img_0106rsz_1img_0117rsz_1img_0125

I had called all week to try to get on a Ghost Tour here, but again, Covid and the owners being out of town, I was out of luck. Hopefully I will get a second chance to tour. BUT part of the Hotel was turned into shops, so I was able to at least say I was IN the Hotel and took lots of pics down the quiet hallways, located past “Raining Zen” and the Barbershop.  The ladies at Zen were very kind, and it’s right up any ghost hunters ally with the merch provided. I always heard about cleansing an area with sage, well they sell all kinds and all “flavors”- and of course right above the sage was MY BOYS!! I watch “Ghost Adventures” quite a bit, and I knew they had investigated here and also Ghost Hunters. Always exciting to be somewhere you watched on tv. rsz_img_0110rsz_img_0111

Those that haunt here are the Jasmine Lady, which if you smell her perfume, she is near you. I have heard and read aboue two stories of drownings- one was a young man who drown in the pool and the other a little girl, Cassandra, who also drowned and will play with marbles and balls if you roll them near the pool. Also a man named George, a painter of a mural in the Crystal Room, has been known to haunt the halls. I would’ve love to have gotten a tour, but alas, what is meant for me is meant for me, and I await patiently until I can tour in the future- I can’t wait to go back! Check out more of my HAUNTED Road Trip in Alton, IL  … HERE and HERE – Enjoy!!!

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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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