Washburne House Historic Site

Learn about the fascinating Elihu Washburne, who helped shaped American politics during and after the Civil War, at his stately brick home in Galena.

Even from the outside, it’s obvious that Elihu B. Washburne House State Historic Site was the home of someone important. The statuesque Greek Revival brick home, anchored by four two-story columns, is a big presence in the town of Galena, Illinois. Visit the family home of Elihu Washburne, who helped shape America during the Civil War and beyond.  

Learn the story of Elihu Washburne, a prominent American politician and early member of the United States Republican Party. He served as congressman during the Civil War, where he was a staunch ally of President Abraham Lincoln. He was also a supporter of Ulysses S. Grant. As president, Grant appointed Washburne Secretary of State and later minister to France.

Follow a knowledgeable docent on a guided tour throughout the house. The tour highlights Washburne’s important friendships with Abraham Lincoln and fellow Galenian Ulysses S. Grant. In fact, Grant learned that he had won the 1869 presidential election while he was sitting in Washburne’s library.

On the first floor, walk through the entry hall to the parlor and sitting room. Continue through the library, where Washburne spent his days building the Republican Party. Next to it, the formal dining room is set up for guests. Even the kitchen and pantry are so faithfully restored that you may expect to smell the aromas of the Washburne’s dinner coming from the stove.

Upstairs, tour two of the family bedrooms. The entire house is filled with the Washburne’s original possessions, including furniture, paintings and decorations.

The Washburne House is open only on Fridays from May through October. Admission is free, but a small donation is encouraged. Use the convenient free parking just outside the house.

Continue your Galena historical tour with a visit to Ulysses S. Grant’s home, which is a 10-minute walk away. Grant, his wife Julia and their four children lived here before they moved to the White House.

Washburne House has no café or shop. However, Galena’s lively downtown is less than a mile away. If the weather is nice, walk to town through Depot Park and across the river.

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