The town integrates the celebration of its history into its future.
Events like the annual Railroad Days show a reverence for the community’s past and a dedication to its continued vibrance. Many of the buildings in Galesburg are both on the historic registry and are currently in use.
Galesburg has a thriving downtown with unique restaurants and plenty of historical places to visit. The town also has cultivated a vibrant arts scene resulting in a bustling downtown.
Currently, the population is over 32,000. Life in Galesburg, Illinois is leisurely and laid back. Learn more about homes for sale in Galesburg, what it is like to live in the town and the current real estate market.
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Galesburg, Illinois was colonized in 1834 for the purpose of building a town around Knox College. By 1837, the first settlers had arrived and set up a small city, called “Log City,” outside of what would become known as Galesburg. In 1873, Galesburg was officially named the seat of Knox County.
Even from the beginning, the town of Galesburg played a large role in history. The residents of Galesburg were abolitionists and helped support movements like the Underground Railroad. Carl Sandburg, a famous poet and author, was born in Galesburg. Plus, Knox College hosted the fifth Lincoln-Douglas debate, the famous senatorial debate in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.
Carl Sandburg Statue and State Historic Site: In 1878, Carl Sandburg was born in a three-room cottage in Galesburg. This home has been turned into a historic site to commemorate his contributions to American literature and poetry. Stepping stones around the house are engraved with his lines from his famous poems (“Quotation Walk”). You can also stop by the Visitor’s Center and gift shop to learn more about his legacy. Sandburg is also commemorated by a statue located on the public square in downtown Galesburg.
Dorothea Tanning: Born in Galesburg, Tanning studied painting in Chicago. She was part of the surrealist movement producing acclaimed paintings and sculptures. In addition to the visual arts, she would later write and publish poetry.
Balloon Race: This competitive, and beautiful, balloon race typically takes place in the summer and hosts more than 30 hot air balloons. Pilots come from across the country to race, and more importantly, to celebrate the excitement of flying hot air balloons.
National Stearman Fly-In Days: For almost 50 years, this event has celebrated America’s iconic biplane – the Stearman. During this event, visitors can enjoy watching the planes fly, learn more about the technical aspects of the plane and watch live entertainment.
Railroad Days: This festival is the largest of its kind in the Midwest and has been going on for over 40 years. The railroad has been at the heart of the Galesburg community from right after its inception. It helped the community expand and thrive. This is a celebration of the legacy of the railroad and its impact on the city. From arts and activities to learning about the industrial history, everyone will have something to enjoy during this event!
Knox College: Founded in 1837, the college was the reason for the formation of the town of Galesburg. From the very start, the college stood up against slavery and discrimination against women. It is the core of the Galesburg community and is known for its honor code and values.
Old Main: Named as a National Historic Landmark, Old Main is the only existing site of the famous 1858 senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. The chair Lincoln sat in is called and remains in Old Main to this day.
Lake Storey: Visit the lake to swim, fish or try out the amazing tube water slide. Considered a great place to visit in the spring and summer, Lake Storey wasn’t always used for recreation. Construction on the lake finished in 1929 and its primary use was to pump cool water through locomotives. It was deeded to the city in 1952.
Galesburg Railroad Museum: The railroad is integral to the story of Galesburg, Illinois. This museum seeks to discover and display the artifacts of the railroad in both the city and throughout Western Illinois.
Seminary Street Historic Commercial District: Once a district lost to time, the Seminary Street Historic District is a classic story of downtown revitalization. After the restoration, it is now home to thriving shops and restaurants.
Central Congregational Church: The second church build on this site, the first brick was laid on April 21, 1897 and the cornerstone event was on June 19, 1987. When the project was complete, the building was comprised of over 1.5 million bricks in the building. The bell tower rises to 127 feet and the church fills a quarter block of the city. You can take a tour of the church to learn about its impressive history and see The Triumvirate Organ, which symbolizes the church’s rich musical history.
Corpus Christi Catholic Church: Built in 1884, this church is a destination for many to tour and learn more about the history of the area.
Lombard College: Established in 1851, the original building of this college still stands and can be visited and toured. This was only the second college in the nation to award women the same degree as men. It was also the first college to offer a Doctor of Divinity degree to women. This was also the college Carl Sandburg attended. Unfortunately, it closed in 1930 because of the Great Depression.