For $10, tourists in Galena, Ill., can take a voyage back in time.
Or, at least, it is the closest thing to time travel at the Dowling House, located at the corner of Diagonal and North Main streets.
Constructed in 1826 with native limestone, it is stated to be the oldest stone structure in the state and the oldest house in Galena.
Betty Brinkmeier, the operator of the facility for the past year, said the house is a perfect window into viewing the history of Galena’s fledgling years.
“It tells you a lot about early Galena,” Brinkmeier said. “It’s a magnificent, two-story structure.”
The limestone house was built by John Dowling, a businessman who hailed from Dublin, Ireland, Brinkmeier said.
A brochure for the structure hails it as having been “a mansion in its day.”
Its construction occurred in the same year as Galena organized itself as a town, according to the city.
It was a time of rapid growth driven by mining throughout the area. A National Register of Historic Places document about the “Galena Historic District” notes that “streets were platted in 1826, and log cabins and taverns sprouted up almost overnight.”
The Dowling House operated as both a business and home, with the bottom floor holding a trading post and the top floor being the residential quarters for the family.
Today, the Dowling House is modeled after how it looked more than 150 years ago, with various assorted good such as fruit and farm tools lining the walls.
The second floor similarly has been kept intact to resemble the living conditions of the Dowlings when they called the structure home.
The house even has its original fireplace.
Brinkmeier said tours of the house provide a complete history of not just the home, but also the Dowling family and the development of Galena.
The Dowlings were a prominent Galena family, with John Dowling serving on Galena’s fire committee and town board of trustees. He would later die in Maryland.
His son, Nicholas, served as a city alderman and mayor.
The national register states that John and Nicholas Dowling developed “the largest ironworks on the Upper Mississippi River, one that supplied much of the trade for this part of the ‘Old Northwest’ and beyond for almost thirty years.”
Brinkmeier said her fascination with the history of Galena is one of the main attractions of the Dowling House for her.
“It’s a very interesting building with a lot of history,” she said, later stating, “I’ve always been fascinated by U.S. history.”
Steve Repp, a historian for Galena Public Library, said the Dowling House provides an excellent opportunity to get to know Galena’s history better.
“It’s a very interesting building that has been kept in very good shape,” he said. “It’s definitely been through good times and hard times.