The ancient people liked to line up their temples and monuments to important celestial events, such as the summer and winter solstices, and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Their obsession with such things had a practical purpose. It enabled them to work out a calendar, which in turn helped them to know when to plant their crops.

There are modern structures that have alignments with important celestial events too. One is the Ryan Mansion in Galena, Illinois. This picturesque and historic building was built a mere heartbeat ago in 1876, unlike some ancient structures that were built thousands of years ago.

Nevertheless, the Ryan Mansion has two original Czechoslovakian ruby glass windows perfectly aligned to catch the sun's rays on the summer solstice and again on the autumnal equinox. Unlike the ancient people who had great need of knowing when important celestial events would happen, the alignment at the Ryan Mansion was done purely as a curiosity - an interesting thing to do, more or less.

Ryan Mansion has a reddish pink and yellow appearance. That may sound a bit frivolous or even cheap and cheerful, but it is actually quite tasteful when you see it in reality. In fact, a more sober and somber color scheme would not work nearly as well. This building may be old, but it doesn't have to be dull. In fact, it thrives better for being bright and alive.

Perhaps the most striking feature of this beautiful old house is its central tower, a two-storey narrow square structure that rises from the top of the second story roof in an almost lighthouse kind of way. The tower is topped with a sweeping styled roof that is reminiscent of something eastern, perhaps from Russia or even China, in a pagoda or Romanesque kind of way.

Today, the splendid building, built by James R. Ryan almost 140 years ago, serves as a bed and breakfast. However, there is an official tour that takes place during four days of each week. After all, this is the largest and finest of Galena's historic mansions, so it is only fitting that ordinary mortals get to see how the other half lived so long ago.

They lived well. This mansion was built for comfort. There are still nine open marble fireplaces that are used in the various rooms of the house. There were 12 originally, but three have been removed for various reason. The fireplaces burn coal and remind visitors of a time when heating was fun. One of the rooms with a grand fireplace is the ballroom. Standing alone in there you can almost hear the music play for a Virginia Reel.