In a cardboard box beneath a bed at the Noble House in Fish Creek, a cache of historic photos taken by Ferdinand Hotz was recently unearthed. Donated to the Gibraltar Historical Association (GHA) by Mary Uhl, Hotz’s granddaughter, the breathtaking landscapes and quaint Door County village scenes in sepia tones, color washes and black and white represent the county’s appeal in the early 1900s.
Born in Germany in 1868, Hotz traveled to the United States as a young man to work in the jewelry business in Chicago, eventually establishing his own business that afforded him the opportunity to travel around the world, as well as to Door County. Hotz is perhaps best known along the peninsula for his extensive portfolio of land – from south of Egg Harbor to Fish Creek and across the peninsula to the shores near Cana Island, in addition to the land that would eventually be donated to create Newport State Park.
Barb McKesson, a member of the GHA, touched on Hotz’s land ethic that was fueled by a passion for Door County.
“Hotz held the county as very special place,” she said. “He was interested in land conservation and the beauty of the land – love and caring for the land was his philosophy. And recording it was a part of his fervor.”
In the exhibit “Love of the Land: Historical Photographs by Ferdinand Hotz,” 31 examples of Hotz’s fervor will be on display through September 23 at the Link Gallery within the Door Community Auditorium.
Dan Eggert, photography director for Door County Living, replicated a few of these shots, and while over 100 years may have passed, many views of the landscape have remained unchanged – and many people continue to feel Hotz’s passion for this place.