One of the easiest places to miss when visiting Galena is Linmar Gardens. It is tucked away at the end of Prospect Street, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. But the traveler who takes time to find this hidden gem near the old high school will be richly rewarded.
Linmar Gardens has been a labor of love for owner Hal Martin since the 1980s. His home, built in 1853, sits on 3.5 acres of challenging terrain. Out of that terrain, Hal has created terraces that are now adorned with annuals, perennials, conifers and cascading waterfalls, including one that drops twenty feet. It also features a sunken garden built in the ruins of one of the first African-American churches in Illinois. A special treat is the view from the porch of the home — the kind of view it is hard to find in Illinois except in Galena. Out in the distance is the Galena River and the stately train depot, now recently refurbished.
Pieces of art made of recycled metal by local artist John Martison dot the landscape. This attention to man-made objects amidst all the natural wonders of the gardens is not surprising given Hal’s own background as an artist. He graduated from the Chicago Art Institute and had a career in advertising before giving that up for the beauty of Galena. He has now added to that beauty considerably by making these gardens his passion for over thirty years.
Tours are given from mid-May through October, Monday through Saturday, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. A tour is given on Sunday at 2 p.m. only. The cost is $10. Because the property is private, visitors are not allowed to stroll the grounds except as part of a tour. Visitors should also be aware that they will encounter stairs and some difficult terrain.