|November 22, 2006
Knox College announced today that it has acquired the historic home of Knox College and Galesburg founder George Washington Gale. The house at 127 E. North Street has been home for the past 136 years to another historic Galesburg family, the Tryons.
"Knox is proud to be the new steward of this landmark home," notes Roger Taylor, the College's president. "We are honored that David and Marilyn Smith gave us this opportunity. The Gale House symbolizes one of Galesburg's finest qualities — a desire to honor the history of our town and the legacies of the people who founded our city and college."
George Washington Gale, who founded Knox College and Galesburg in 1837, built the house between 1841 and 1846. In 1870 it was purchased by George Adams Tryon and his wife Julia Whiting Tryon. Since then, four generations of Tryons have lived in the home. Since its original building, the house has undergone several additions, yet the original Gale House remains intact and distinctly recognizable. As Marilyn Smith says, "We call it the little house that grew."
During the years 1943 to 1995 the house included apartments for renters — mainly Knox College students. In 1995, the Smiths restored the house to a single-family residence with six bedrooms, two living rooms, and two dining rooms.
Knox College purchased the house through a gift from alumni Bill and Beth Charlet Suitts of Boulder, Colorado. Beth graduated from Knox in 1946. Bill Suitts, who grew up in Galesburg and went to Knox College in 1946-1947, remembers the house from his childhood. "The house was already nearly 100 years old when we were students at Knox, and we thought it only fitting that Knox own this important piece of local history," Suitts says.
While a final decision has yet to be made on how the College will use the house, current plans are to host College guests. "My wife Anne and I often host Knox visitors at Ingersoll House," explains Taylor. "The Gale House allows us to extend our hospitality to more than just one or two guests at a time."
In the meantime, Knox hopes to furnish the house with some historic pieces in the College's collection. "The Smiths were kind enough to leave some of the house's furnishings," Taylor adds. "There are many pieces in Knox's warehouse that can't be used right now. The Gale House is a perfect new home for them."
The house has been designated a Galesburg City Landmark and an "Anchor Structure" in the Galesburg Historic District listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 46 states and 50 nations. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Brief History of The Gale House
1841-1846 The house is built by George Washington Gale (photo, left). Gale died in 1861; his wife lived in the house until 1870.
1870 Purchased by George Adams Tryon and his wife Julia Whiting Tryon, who expand it and raise four children there — all of whom are Knox alumni — Estelle, James, Louise and Fred. In addition, Julia's sister, Maria Whiting, headed Knox's female division and Whiting Hall was named in her honor.
1906 After George Tryon's death, his wife Julia and children James and Louise remained in the home.
1928 The Victorian porches across the front were converted to smaller, Greek Revival-style porches.
1942 Louise Tryon died, leaving the house to her nephew Wayne (and Ruth) Tryon, who convert the east side of the house — the portion originally built by Gale — into two apartments, which are often rented to Knox students.
1991 After Wayne Tryon's death, Ruth Tryon stayed in the house. In 1995, after the last renters move out, Tryon's oldest daughter Marilyn Tryon Smith and husband David began converting it back to a single-family residence.
1997 Ruth Tryon moved to the Kensington Apartments in Galesburg, and David and Marilyn Smith became the fourth generation of Tryons to own the home.
2006 David and Marilyn Smith move to smaller quarters. Knox College purchases the home through a gift from Knox alumni Bill and Beth Charlet Suitts.
History of Knox College
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The Gale House
Above, the Gale House at 127 E. North Street; east (right) section built by George Washington Gale in the 1840s, west section added by the Tryon family in the 1870s.
Above, Knox College President Roger Taylor announces acquisition of the Gale House: "We are grateful to Marilyn and David Smith for making this home available to the College, and to Beth and Bill Suitts for making a gift that enables the College to purchase the home."
Above, Illinois State Representative Don Moffitt speaks at the ceremony. Seated are Thomas West, attorney for the sellers; Marilyn and David Smith; Knox President Roger Taylor; at rear is a portrait of George Washington Gale.