Heritage Village Comes to Life

Heritage Village celebrated its annual Root Beer Festival on July 3, and it will host another special event known as Dog Days – fittingly, during the “dog days of summer” – on Saturday, Aug. 7, 10 am – 3 pm. 

While traveling no farther than Sturgeon Bay, it’s possible to be transported back in time some 140 years, to an early Door County settlement. 

Adjacent to the parking lot of Crossroads at Big Creek – a major draw for nature enthusiasts and hikers – lies the historic Heritage Village. The Door County Historical Society leases the grounds from Crossroads at Big Creek, and there in the village that’s inspired by the 1880-1910 era, visitors can tour the Greene Store, schoolhouse, chapel, fish house, granary and homesteads.

It’s a place where visitors can test their knowledge of the antique tools that decorate the walls of the Madden Tool Museum, or order an S-hook, handmade from the 2,000-plus-degree blacksmith forge. For the ambitious, there’s a historical tool to grab to experience firsthand the work that our ancestors once endured. While taking a rest from touring the historic buildings, visitors can feed the chickens and walk through the Heritage Garden. 

The village is open every Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 3 pm, throughout the summer and into the early fall, but Thursdays are when it truly comes to life. That’s when village volunteers welcome visitors as they tour the grounds and its eight buildings, observe tool demonstrations, and watch blacksmiths at work at the forge on the north side of the village, alongside the Peterson granary.

Rolf Olson holds up an S-hook that he forged during a demonstration of the blacksmith trade on the north side of Heritage Village, alongside the Peterson granary. Submitted.

Rolf Olson and his apprentice, Don Frazier, demonstrate the blacksmith trade.

“At the forge at Heritage Village, I demonstrate three primary skills in making an S-hook for the audience,” Olson said. “I answer questions and do custom work, but my primary job is to entertain the crowd and give them a learning experience that they can enjoy. Don joins me and is learning the tools and techniques of smithing.”

The Madden Tool Museum. Submitted.

The south end of the village features the Madden Tool Museum, a one-of-a-kind museum dedicated to hundreds of historical and antique tools. Tool enthusiasts and historians alike appreciate the stories behind the tools and the chance to learn from the museum’s founders. 

The Madden brothers, including Mike, Pat and Steve – along with friend and partner Dan Hanson – made their dream a reality by building the period-authentic structure that opened to the public in 2018.

“Our mission is to relate the importance, uniqueness and value of hand tools of the past,” Mike Madden said. “We especially enjoy the family stories about the tools and happily assist those who want to know about items they might own.”

Guests can learn about the many tools – from carpentry and logging implements to railroad-construction and field tools – that were essential to life in the late 19th century and have the opportunity to try out a few for themselves.

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