Friday, February 3, 2012




The Marine Hospital today.

Galena's Marine Hospital is today hidden from view and not being preserved the way it should, as it is now for sale by its owner.  This building is one of a few in the 'town that time forgot' that might be gone forever like the Jo Daviess County Poor Farm.  This is one of those buildings that may meet its wrecking ball soon, along with the St. Mary's Catholic School above St. Mary's Church in Galena. 

This building was designed by Ammi B. Young, the same architect who designed the Market House, and built in the 1860s. These hospitals were at the heart of many of these communities. Long before the Interstate Commerce Commission, the New Deal, or the military industrial complex, federal institutions such as the marine hospitals provided tangible and necessary services to a vital sector of the American polity. The marine hospitals, with the military, customs service, postal service, patent office, lighthouse service, land office, military pension system, and other institutions, formed the heart of an active, vibrant, and increasingly visible early American state.

Circa 1870 photo showing the Marine Hospital during the period
 it was home to the German Normal School. 
The owner published this as a historical background of the building, "The nation's Marine Hospital system was created to care for ailing men of the seafaring business. Construction on Galena's Marine Hospital, authorized by an act of congress, began in 1857 and was completed in 1860. Ely S. Parker was appointed superintendent of construction. Parker, a full-blooded Seneca Indian, later became a General on Ulysses S. Grant's staff. General Grant's Galena home is just blocks away.The hospital cost $43,430 to build. The structure was all brick with walls two foot thick. Ceilings were of of brick and I-beam construction. This served as a method of fireproofing, but it also helped to keep the temperature constant.In addition, the floors are able to support tremendous weight. The third floor originally contained two large wards, the apothecary shop, and two full baths. The main floor had a parlor, bedroom, office, sitting room and a full bath. The basement had the kitchen, laundry room, fruit and vegetable storage room, furnace room, dining room, closets,and a full bath. Cisterns having capacity of 30,000 gallons were constructed for water supply. An elaborate sewer system was added, complete with tunnel and branch system. The whole building was heated by a hot air furnace, along with numerous fireplaces and wood stoves. The hospital was closed in 1865, deemed to costly to operate. Patient costs were $3.00 a week, physician fees ran $1.75 a week, and medicine costs ran $.70 a week.
  In later years, the hospital was home to the German English Normal school, the Nash Sanitarium, and the Nash Medical company from 1912-1933. It also has had many private owners through the years. This is one of the few remaining Marine hospitals left in the country." 
I am going to do more intensive research on this building that I find so fascinating, but when I saw it for sale I figured that now would be a good time to give a brief synopsis of this building before my longer historical research.  Here is what the website that is offering the building says:
" Welcome to Galena's Marine Hospital! Just out of downtown, several blocks off the highway, down a gravel bike trail, brings you to the private drive of this wonderful historic edifice. 6,300 square foot of space on three floors. Just waiting for restoration or adaptive reuse as a single family home, corporate retreat, etc. Very private location. A Magnificent, detailed stair-case winds from the basement up to the belvedere, which offers fantastic views of the city and surrounding farms. The upper floors offer large rooms, the largest being 32x17 foot. The ceilings on these floors measure 12 and 14 foot. Doors and windows are man-sized, with the front door measuring 4x9 foot. It is designed for 45 windows in total. The quality of the construction is second to none. It was built on bedrock, and unlike many buildings of this age, virtually no settling has occured. The hospital sits in the middle of approximately eleven, mostly wooded acres, with many black walnut and other trees. There is a 239 year old white oak on the grounds that measures over twelve foot in diameter. There are bluffs, clearings and trails on the property. There are two partial stone foundations on the grounds, one of which is believed to be from the admitting building, as it is down by the river were the steamboats would have docked. The property is fenced, within the city limits, and currently zoned AG. At the present, it is being used for grazing.    
           Marine Hospital further details................
All of the non-supporting walls have been removed from the upper floors leaving four large rooms on each floor, not including very large hallways. All walls in the basement, or first floor, are still present. This floor includes the kitchen, laundry room, vegetable storage room, the furnace room, family dinning room, 1/2 bath, and closet as well as a hallway. All of the original plumbing fixtures have been removed. The basement is heated by a oil fired boiler and baseboard units. There is also an operating wood stove in the kitchen. Some of the windows have been replaced, others need repair or replacement. No windows are included in the belvedere. These will be large, measuring over 4 by 8 foot. The porches have been removed but the original stone footings are still on the property. Much of the costly to replace, original moulding and trim is still present. The original staircase is 99% intact. The belvedere was reconstructed sometime ago sparing no expense. A new well was drilled in 1996. The caretaker for the property is willing to stay on. 2010 taxes $4,183. Priced at $849,000. A fraction of replacement cost of the structure alone. PLEASE NOTE : The Marine Hospital IS NOT A "DRIVE BY." It cannot be seen from the road. In addition, it is fenced off with various livestock running about the grounds.  " 

Here are some pictures from the present day that shows what potential this has as a possible museum, or other historical preservation. 

For anyone who loves history this makes me sick to my stomach and someone should save this building now before it adverts to a buyer who will destroy it.       

To see the website for the Marine Hospital please visit:



  1. This is a truly spectacular building- another great plan by Eli S. Parker. I was inside this buildng in the mid-1990s. It was in pretty good repair at that point. The lower level served as living quarters for a care-taker of the place. I wish it could be saved. It is also in such a great park-like setting overlooking Galena.

    1. Do you know if you can get inside now? I am a photographer for urban exploring.

  2. I'm a bit in love with this property.

  3. With some love this could be a really spectacular property. If I had the money I'd be there in an instant.

  4. Has anyone talked to the tawani foundation/pritzker library about this?

  5. If only my husband and I had the money to buy this beautiful place. I would love nothing more than to restore the hospital, but as a home! I would love to raise our children in such a huge piece of history & in such a wonderful town!