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Door County is rich in history, from its most prominent founding citizens to the business leaders who embraced tourism to make it the destination it is today. It’s a history of orchards, farming, and fishermen, but also of potters, artists, and writers. But more than anything, it’s a history told in the lives of the remarkable people who’ve called it home for a spell or a lifetime. Door County Pulse tells them all.

  • Sturgeon Bay’s 3rd Avenue: Past and Present

    In 1850, Oliver Perry Graham built a log cabin on the east shore of Sturgeon Bay, the wilderness of northeastern Wisconsin. The rugged landscape – dense forests, treacherous waters, rocky fields – was challenging, as well as intimidating. But the early settlers were hearty immigrants who recognized opportunity. Shortly after his arrival, Graham was joined […]

  • The Legends of Death’s Door: Crossing between fact and fancy

    In Door County, heritage and history seep from every place imaginable. A sense of ancestry drips from the names painted upon mailboxes and carved into roadside placards, while each row of cherry trees in an orchard draws lines back to earlier days. These elements speak to the history of this place as much as the […]

  • Ice Harvesting in Door County’s Early Years

    For nearly a century, private homes and businesses in Door County relied on ice harvested from Green Bay or Lake Michigan for refrigeration purposes.

  • Prohibition Era in Door County

    As the harsh Door County winter settled in shortly before Thanksgiving in 1933, John R. Seaquist addressed the Door County Council of Religious Education at the Ephraim Moravian Church. On that 19th day of November, just two weeks before the repeal of the 18th Amendment would be ratified, Seaquist pledged his organization “to do all […]

  • The First Door County Residents: Native American Tribes in Door County

    Before Swedes or Norwegians; before Moravians or Belgians. Before Captain Bailey or Increase Claflin; even before French explorers such as Nicolet and Radisson, who began visiting the area in the 17th Century. For hundreds of years before European exploration and settlement in the Great Lakes region of what we now call the United States, indigenous […]

  • The Legacy of an Industry: Quarrying for Stone in Door County

    A deep dive into the history and legacy of the quarrying industry in Door County, one of the peninsula’s first exports.

  • Faces of the Past: Chester Thordarson

    One of the most fascinating characters in Door County’s history has to be Chester Thordarson, particularly where Rock Island is concerned. Born in Iceland in 1867, Thordarson immigrated with his family to Milwaukee when he was nearly six years old. Chester and his family moved throughout the Midwest and by the time he was 20, […]

  • Finding “Door County Beautiful”: One historian’s discovery of the roots of tourism

    For any tourist destination such as Door County, marketing the place and what it has to offer is absolutely essential. The medium for delivering the message has commonly fallen to some form of ephemera. Ephemera is printed matter intended to be of use and value for only a very short period of time. Current examples […]

  • Passing along History: Two Local Women Team up for Book on Sturgeon Bay’s Past

    History, like languages, can be lost unless passed on through word-of-mouth or written documentation. Sturgeon Bay’s beginnings could become whispers of a time that once was, but with the help of two employees at the Door County Museum, Ann Jinkins and Head Curator Maggie Weir, along with the Arcadia Press, future generations who reside in […]

  • Location and Longevity: A History of Two Cheese Factories in Door County

    It seems that no matter how many yellowed pages are flipped back through the history books, Door County is remembered for growing fruit. However, cherry and apple blossoms are not the only agriculture to speckle the horizons of Door County’s history. Door County has had a rich, agricultural tradition over the years which includes contributing […]

  • Noble House, Doug Blahnik, Door County, Fish Creek

    The Alexander Noble House in “Olde Towne” Fish Creek

    “A jolly good town is old Fish Creek, The best on the pike I know: With its back to the rock and its face to the sea, Where the rollicking breezes blow. As snug as a bug in an old woolen rug, It lies there embowered in green: You may go where you like, on […]

  • “Grudge” – the Enduring Rivalry between Sister Bay and Baileys Harbor

    The annals of sport are filled with storied rivalries. They’re called clashes, battles, and feuds. In Door County League baseball, one of the best is referred to simply as the “Grudge.” It’s Sister Bay versus Baileys Harbor – Bays versus A’s, North versus South. And in its heyday, it featured as much intensity as an […]

  • Cherries, Prisoner of War, POW, Cherry Orchard, orchard, Door County

    The Harvest of 1945: German POW Camps Filled Door County’s Labor Shortage

    During WWII, Door County’s orchards faced severe labor shortages. German Prisoners of War filled the gaps and saved a harvest.

  • Door County League Baseball – A Local Tradition

    The Door County League is an amateur baseball league made up of eight teams with contests held each Sunday at 1 :30 p.m., always beginning on Mother’s Day. Most estimate the level of competition is somewhere near or just a notch below Division III college baseball, with players ranging in age from about 14 to […]

  • Clearing the Virgin Forests: Door County’s Logging Past

    More than a century ago, just as today, the splendor of Door County’s natural resources attracted droves of people to the peninsula. But in the last half of the 19th century, they came not to appreciate and relax, but to chop and clear the area’s towering virgin forests. When Door County was established by the […]

  • Rock Island: The Untrammeled Frontier

    As the passenger ferry “Karfi” pulls up to the break-wall at Rock Island, I’m cold, drenched and reminded just how much this place feels like the outer edge of all known civilization. Barring the sound of Karfi’s engine and the monumental stone boathouse on the shore, I could be Jean Nicolet stumbling onto this untrammeled […]

  • Dan Eggert, Toft, history, Door County history, Toft Point

    The Toft Family: Preserving a Piece of the Peninsula

    Most Door County residents and visitors, if they know of the Toft Family at all, have probably heard only of “Emma Who Saved The Ridges,” as a Milwaukee Journal Magazine headline once referred to Emma Toft. Emma was certainly involved in protecting the area known as The Ridges Sanctuary, although many others were equally involved. […]

  • Fyr Bal, Joyce Gerdman, Scandinavian, Festival, Door County Festival, Door County

    Fyr Bal: 50 Years of Celebration in Ephraim

    Each year on the weekend closest to the summer solstice, the Village of Ephraim undergoes a transformation. Normally a tranquil lakeside community, known for its pastoral atmosphere and deep sense of history, during this weekend the village unfolds into a flurry of activity for ‘Fyr Bal’—one of Door County’s best known, if least understood, cultural […]

  • Rod “Chief” Billerbeck A Legendary Presence in Northern Door

    The numbers are the first thing you notice, and how could you not? They pop off the page at you: 41 yeas as head baseball coach, 377 wins – a state record when he retired, 25 league or conference titles, and one state championship. I began the task of writing about the man responsible for […]

  • Chicago Historical Society, Christmas Schooner, Christmas tree

    The Risky Careers of Christmas Schooner Captains

    When the late summer storms on the Great Lakes began to stir, and the gales of November rattled the very souls of the schooners, the lake captains saw their transport business diminish. But there came a realization of a new seasonal run — Christmas trees! Christmas trees for those cities and communities where pine forests […]