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Wm. Jennings Bryan

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a three‑story cubical Victorian brick house with arched windows, a decorative corbelled roof, and a large wrought-iron porch reached by a staircase. It is the Charles A. Galigher House in Cairo, Illinois.]

Historic American Buildings Survey

Charles A. Galigher House, Cairo, Completed 1872.

 p36  Under the Magnolias

In the days when great white packets steamed up and down the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, and the city of Cairo at their confluence was a leading river port, there were built many imposing mansions along the magnolia-shaded streets of the steamboat metropolis. One of the best known of these, particularly in the years after the Civil War, was the Galigher house, a spacious Victorian residence at the southeast corner of Washington Avenue and Twenty-eighth Street. Construction of this noteworthy dwelling was begun in 1869 and completed in 1872.

Because of its ornate style of architecture and for the reason that it was the scene of a gala reception for General and Mrs. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ulysses S. Grant upon their return from a world tour in 1880, this house was included in the Illinois section of the Historic American Buildings Survey. However, a note in the Survey says, "This subject is not represented by drawings, the photographic record being made to show what was considered a fine home of the period. The heavy, ornate, and uneasy style of architecture of the house is expressive of the taste of the time and its prototype is found in all parts of the country."

The man who erected this imposing brick residence was Charles A. Galigher, a leading citizen of Cairo during the Civil War era. After the house was completed, it was widely admired for its architecture and its setting. The walls, it is said, are of double brick, with a ten-inch air space between to keep out the dampness of the river region in which Cairo is located. A high, white fence enclosed the original grounds and many magnolia trees were planted.

An outstanding social center during the 1870's, the Galigher mansion reached the peak of its fame on April 16, 1880, when ex-President and Mrs. Grant were guests there for two days. This was not Grant's first visit to Cairo, for during the early part of the Civil War he established headquarters there and directed the successful campaigns against Forts Henry and Donelson. He set up his headquarters in the Halliday Hotel.

As a guest of the Galighers, General Grant occupied the southeast bedroom on the second floor. The southwest bedroom was occupied by Mrs. Grant and here she displayed to the ladies of the house many trunksful of gifts and souvenirs gathered on the world tour she and her husband had just completed.

During this visit several receptions were held in the first-floor drawing room of the house, and General Grant, between puffs on his familiar  p37 black cigar, is said to have remarked on the resemblance of the Galigher drawing room to the drawing room of the White House. At the end of their visit, the Grants journeyed northward to the house which had been presented to them by the citizens of Galena. (See page 188.)

In the years following this visit, Mr. & Mrs. Galigher continued to welcome guests in the big mansion among the magnolias. Then, in 1914, the house was acquired by Peter T. Langan, a well-known lumber dealer of Cairo. Both he and Mrs. Langan continued the tradition of hospitality established by the Galighers. They also kept the house in good repair, appreciating the fact that it was a landmark of the city. After the death of Mr. Langan his widow sold the property to the present (1948) occupants, Colonel and Mrs. Fain W. King, who have taken up the Galigher tradition where their predecessors left off.

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Page updated: 13 Mar 13