Tuesday, January 17, 2012

General Overview of the Old Market House

File:Galena IL Old Market House1.JPG

The Old Market House was built by the city of Galena to serve as a city hall and enclosed public farmer's market. A rapid increase in population in the Galena area in the 1830s and 1840s, largely a result of the discovery of galena, a kind of lead ore found in the region, had led to a sharp increase in demand for local foodstuffs.
The Old Market House's business plan called for the US$50 per year rents from the twelve enclosed farmer's market stalls to help maintain the building. The $2,500 used for initial construction was obtained through the sale of $5 per share stocks, which was enabled by an 1845 act of the Galena City Council. Sellers who could not rent a stall were allocated space in the market square just outside the building

The Old Market House continued to serve the people of Galena until about 1910. As an increasing percentage of local citizens bought motor vehicles, households began to "shop around" for foodstuffs. Local grocery stores, which paid property taxes to the city of Galena, were not interested in helping to maintain their competitors. In about 1910 the stalls of the Old Market House went out of business.
The city of Galena moved its offices elsewhere in 1938, making the old building redundant. It was given to the state of Illinois in 1947.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post Office/Custom House

Galena's Post Office as it appeared on July 2, 1900.
The present Post Office was initiated by Congressman Washburne and appropriated for by Congress on August 18, 1856, after Galena outgrew its original main street store which was established in 1826. Construction on the Post Office/Customs House began in 1857 with the best quality grantie was shipped up the Mississippi from Nauvoo. 
The footings and foundation were laid in the fall and pig lead approximately the weight of the completed building was placed on the foundation and left until the following spring when construction began.  The Weekly Northwestern Gazette of August 9, 1859 said "the building is so substantial it will last 1,000 years with only two forces capable of destroying it, one being an earthquake and the other a mob."
Ammi B, Young the Supervising
 Architect of the Post Office
Two men played major roles in the construction of the Post Office. The first was the Supervising Architect for the Ofiice of Construction, Treasury Department, Ammi B. Young. Some of Young's works include the Treasury Building in DC and the Territorial Capitol Building of New Mexico, he also had what many at the time considered as the leading design for the US Capitol, but eventually lost. The other being a man mentioned in a previous post, Ely S. Parker who held the title of Construction Superintendent. Ammi B. Young had a grandiose vision for the Post Office, including many of today's features, these include the mahogany counters in the lobby and the high solid oak doors on the second floor.
The Post Office has been used for many functions during its 152 year history.  In 1859, the 2nd floor, which housed the Customs House was used for many social gatherings including a party thrown for a soldier on November 16, 1861.  Also, the second floor was used as the Public Library until the present-day building was built in 1902.
Galena was the nation's first Post Office to be designated by the Smithsonian as "A Great American Post Office".  For this distinction a Post Office must meet two of the following three criteria:
1. Outstanding architectural features.
2. Historical significance to the community.
3. Outstanding service to the community.
Galena's met all three.
Today it is the oldest continually owned and operated Post Office in America.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Galena's African-American History: Richard H.Cain, Barber turned Politician

Galena today has an African American population of less than 1%, but around the time of the Civil War a few influential African Americans called Galena home.  Richard H. Cain was one of those influential African Americans.
Cain was born in 1825 to free parents in Greenbrier County, Virginia (Present-day WV).  In 1848, Cain  joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church, an independent black denomination started in Philadelphia. He opened an AME church in Galena (will be discussed at a later time) around this time while also operating a barbershop in town. 
In 1859, Cain left Galena and became an AME deacon in Muscatine, Iowa.   In 1861, Cain was called as a pastor in Brooklyn, New York. In 1862, he was ordained as an elder in 1862 and remained at the Brooklyn church until 1865.
After the Civil War, Cain moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 as superintendent of AME missions. The AME Church attracted tens of thousands of converts to its denomination very rapidly.
Cain became active in politics, serving as a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1868. He represented Charleston County in the South Carolina Senate from 1868 to 1872. He also edited the South Carolina Leader newspaper (later renamed the Missionary Record).
He was elected as a Republican to the Forty-third United States Congress in a newly created at-large district. He did not run for re-election in 1874 after redistricting, but ran for the 2nd district in 1876. He was elected to the Forty-fifth United States Congress. His major congressional effort was advocating the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
In 1880 Cain was elected and consecrated a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; he served the episcopal district which comprised Louisiana and Texas. He helped found Paul Quinn College and served as its president until 1884.
He died in Washington on January 18, 1887 and is buried in Graceland cemetery.

Leo E. Allen, A Modern-Era Politician


Throughout the early life of this blog we have reflected on Civil War era history, before I have the chance to research more in-depth, I thought I would give you a few more biographical sketches.  This one is on a recent politician, Leo E. Allen. 
Leo Elwood Allen (October 5, 1898 – January 19, 1973), American politician, was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives for fourteen terms, 1933–1961, representing the 13th District of Illinois 1933–1949, and the 16th District of Illinois 1949–1961. He was born in Elizabeth, Illinois and was educated at University of Michigan. Allen was the Jo Daviess County, Illinois Court clerk and also taught school in Galena and practiced law before being elected to the 73rd Congress as a Republican and to the thirteen succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1933-January 3, 1961); chairman, Committee on Rules (Eightieth and Eighty-third Congresses); was not a candidate for renomination in 1960.  Leo Allen missed 61 (2%) of 2,461 roll call votes between Mar 9, 1933 and Aug 31, 1960.
In 1941, Allen voted Yes for War with Japan and No for War against Germany.  Also, in 1941, he voted no for the amendment to the Neutrality Act of 1940, which would have opened up even greater talks of Internment.
Allen retired to Galena and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery (Galena, Illinois).