DeSoto House Hotel

230 South Main Street, Galena, IL

requested by grace H

(815) 777-0090

Status: Historical Hotel



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Opening in April of 1855 – during Galena’s economic boom - this hotel is oldest still operating hotel in Illinois. When it opened it was the largest (5 floors) and most luxurious hotel in the West.

The original hotel was much larger with over 200 rooms – albeit lacking private bathrooms - and a 300 seat dining hall.

In 1859 a massive fire destroyed 12 rooms on every floor. It also caused both smoke and water damage to nearly the entire building. 10 years later a steam boiler exploded in the basement.

In the 1880’s the 4th and 5th floors were removed.

In 1980’s the new owner spent $7.8 million (just under 30 million in 2024 dollars) on a massive restoration.

Today the hotel has 55 rooms – unlike the 19th century rooms you get your own private bathroom - and 3 dining areas as well as many amenities. It also boasts excellent reviews by guests.


Paranormal Activity

The hotel’s most famous ghost is the “Lady In Black”. Reports of encounters with her date back to the 1870’s. Many people believe she was a victim of the boiler explosion.

A woman reported a figure black coming to her window in the hotel to a local newspaper is the earliest report in print.

More commonly – and to this day – the apparition of a woman in a black Victorian dress is seen descending a staircase before walking right into a wall. In 2011, while repairing flood damage, a plastered up doorway was discovered in the wall.

While there are those who believe ghosts can walk through solid objects its generally the case ghosts are simply using a door that no longer exists or walking on a floor that was once at a different height.

The hotel has now put plexiglass over the old doorway and there is a photo supposedly of the black lady hanging nearby.

Aside from the lady, the third floor is said to be the most active in the building. People have reported hearing people moving around and talking above their third-floor rooms. There hasn’t been a floor above the 3rd since the 1880’s. Others have described feeling a presence at the end of their beds and feelings of being watched by something unseen.

One employee reported a ball of light flying by them on the third floor.

The most active room in the hotel is 333 and it is suggested you request that room if looking for an encounter with the paranormal.

Throughout the hallways of the building there are reports of disembodied voices and the phantom smell of cigar smoke.


By Grace H

I spent 3 nights May 31st to June 3 at DeSoto House hotel in Galena and the second night I was awaken around 2 am by a flash of light that lit up the entire room( I was on the third floor) then a strong odor of cigar smoke permeated followed by loud voices like a party was going on.  There are no floors above since the fire on June 2, 1859. The next morning I was talking to the desk clerk at the hotel and discussed the event of the previous night and he told me that I had a paranormal experience it has happened for guests staying on the third floor.