The small city of Galena, Illinois, engaged in an active public debate over the future of its rich nineteenth-century built environment between 1964 and the early 1980s. Framed in terms of economic recovery, citizens and local officials embraced historic preservation as the means to nurture Galena's heritage tourism industry. However, they differed greatly over the extent to which the city's business district should be saved or modernized. City officials went so far as to consider a plan of urban renewal that would reduce the historic aspects of the business district by half and replace nineteenth-century structures with a motel, a strip mall, and parking lots. In the ensuing debate, residents forcefully voted down the renewal plan, effectively enshrining preservation as city policy. Galena's experience challenges existing studies of historic preservation by highlighting the ways in which small town residents resorted to local politics and market forces to embrace preservation as a means for economic renewal.


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