Preservation Magazine, Summer 2016

News Brief: Raising the Bar at the Jail Hill Inn

Exterior shot of Jail Hill Inn

photo by: Courtesy Fallon Oldenburg/Jail Hill Inn

If they look closely, guests at the just-opened Jail Hill Inn in Galena, Illinois, will spot names such as Curly and Al carved into their window frames. The graffiti dates to the bed-and-breakfast’s century as Galena’s county jail, and it’s just one of the details owner Matthew Carroll left intact when he transformed the 8,000-square-foot, Second Empire–style building from a foreclosed government facility into luxury lodging.

Once home to Ulysses S. Grant, Galena draws more than a million tourists per year to its picture-perfect historic district. But native son Carroll says the property he acquired last year and rehabilitated with local contractors stands out for its fortress-like design.

The sturdy 1879 construction kept the jail in good shape during the decades it stood neglected after closing in 1977. Though a 1980s owner gutted the interior, visitors can still admire original beams and windows, as well as a brick ceiling built to provide an extra layer of security for the resident sheriff’s family. Modern amenities such as a wireless sound system complete the six-suite inn’s transformation.

“You only get a couple opportunities in your life to follow a dream and your passion,” says Carroll, a hospitality industry veteran who counts the Jail Hill Inn as his first preservation project. “It is a dream come true for me.”

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