When it comes to the “tiny house” movement, Jo Daviess County was ahead of its time. When the great mineral rush happened in the 1800s, miners built cottages all over the county’s hillsides. These cottages live up to the “tiny house” designation. Many had only one room and were 1,000 square feet or less. “In those days, a miner’s family could have 11 or 12 children in it very easily,” says Nancy. “It’s astounding for us to look at these brick or stone homes, and know a family that large lived and were happy there.”


If you hadn’t already figured it out, a miner's life was not easy. Native Americans had already mined most of the surface minerals. That meant 19th century miners had to go deep to get to the ore – and they did it without the fancy equipment we have today. Explosives, candlelight, hand tools, and just about anything they had were used to get the job done. You can browse some of these tools at the Galena & U.S. Grant Museum (just ask, they would love to show you.)

Today many of the tiny miner cottages still stand, but many have been converted to second family homes that people use when they come to visit the county. Few are open to the public, but if you want to see more of what life was like in a tiny house, you can tour one located next to the Grant house on Bouthillier Street. It’s been converted into a County General Store.


“If you’re interested in history or architecture or architecture, Galena is a concentration of that,” says Wendy Heiken. “We have architecture that ranges from the 1820 and the early to the miner cottages to 1830s federal-style home, many buildings and home of the 1840s…. Greek Revival, Galena Vernacular, Italiannates.”