CORNER OF THE PAST AND OLD ANDERSON HOUSE MUSEUM – The farmhouse formerly owned by Alex and Emma Anderson is run by the Sister Bay Historical Society.  You go back in time looking at the families artifacts that date back to 1875.  There is also a collection of historic farm buildings, including a 100 year old barn, sawmill and log cabins.

DOOR COUNTY MARITIME MUSEUM, GILLS ROCK – The focus of this northern branch of the Door County Maritime Museum is on shipwrecks, fishing and navigation.  You will learn about lifesaving equipment used in ship rescues and board a 1930 fishing tug plus more.

ISLAND CLIPPER –  The Island Clipper is a 65 foot boat that takes visitors to Washington Island from Gills Rock, it’s about a 20 minute ride with a voyage through Death’s Door and past two of Door County’s most famous Light Houses.

BAILEYS HARBOR LIGHT RANGE – Starting in 1869 sailors lined up the upper and lower lights on this facility to safely enter Baileys Harbor.  The lights were taken off service in 1969.  Today, The Ridges Sanctuary staff, members and volunteers have become the new keepers of the lights.  The grounds are open to the public.




If you are arriving by car, it’s always good to know how our roads are laid out.  Hwy 42 runs along the west side of the county on the bay side of Green Bay.  Hwy 57 runs along Lake Michigan on the east side of Door County.  Hwy 42 and Hwy 57 meet in Sister Bay to the north.  In Sister Bay, Hwy 57 ends but Hwy 42 continues north to Northport.  It takes almost 75 minutes to drive from the county line in southern Door to the end of Hwy. 42 at Northport.  At Northport, you can take the ferry to Washington Island that takes about 30 minutes.  To get to Rock Island from Washington Island it takes another 25 minutes.  The Washington Island Ferry offers daily year-round service.  Ferry’s can transport cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles, kayaks, four wheelers, bicycles and freight.

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How did Door County get it’s name?  The area was mainly inhabited by the Potawatomi Indians.  Stories have it that a group of Winnebago Indians traveled to the tip of the peninsula and found it occupied by the Potawatomi, who offered to share the land.  The Winnebagos refused and attacked the Potawatomi.  During the fight both lost many men and canoes in the waters crossing between the tip of the peninsula and Washington Island.  The Winnebagos lost the fight and took it as an omen that they should never cross between the point and Washington Island.   The Potawatomi called it “Door of Death”.  Early French explorers translated the name that the Potawatomi gave the dangerous passage to “Port des Morts” (“port day more”) which became “Death’s Door” in English.  The water between Green Bay and Lake Michigan was treacherous to many ships.  There are many shipwrecks scattered over the lake floor.  Door County got it’s name after the treacherous strait between Door Peninsula and Washington Island.  


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Most of our villages today were established between 1848 and 1868. 

BAILEYS HARBOR ON LAKE MICHIGAN – Captain Justice Bailey first visited it in 1848 when he encountered a violent storm on Lake Michigan on a trip from Racine, WI to Detroit, MI.  Captain Bailey pulled into the harbor looking for safety.  Captain Bailey told his employer that he found timber and limestone.  The next year his employer, Alanson Sweet opened a stone quarry.  He also cut a road through the woods heading west to the Green Bay shoreline which is now County Trunk F.  Baileys Harbor is the oldest village in Door County.  It was part of the Gibraltar Township until 1861.  Lumber was the main business of Baileys Harbor until the forests were depleted and replaced by shipping.

CARLSVILLE INLAND NORTH OF STURGEON BAY – The area was first settled in 1860 by settlers of Irish descent, but eventually out numbered by people of German descent.  The new settlers gave the village the name of Karlsville because there were a lot of men in the community that had the name Karl.  Karlesville was  eventually changed to the English spelling of Carlesville.  Prior to 1930, Karlesville actually had a lake which disappeared sometime in the 1930’s about the same time as dynamiting for the construction of Hwy. 42 began.  Many believed blasting opened up caverns that helped the water escape.  

EGG HARBOR ON GREEN BAY – The village was first settled in 1855 by Jacob and Levi Thorp who were relatives of Asa Thorpe who founded Fish Creek.  Both men began lumber operations and built the first dock in Egg Harbor.  Levi eventually bought out Jacob and expanded his business to include farming and orchards.  Egg Harbor also started as part of the Township of Gibraltar but became a separate village in 1861.  In 1865 French-Canadian families arrived establishing saloons, hotels and the first Catholic Church.  Egg Harbor is said to get it’s name by Increase Claflin.  He named it Egg Harbor after finding a nest full of duck eggs when he was trying a get a horse shoe out of the harbor. 

EPHRAIM ON GREEN BAY –  The village was the first religious settlement in Door County.  In February of 1853, Rev. Andrew Iverson and three of his followers walked from Green Bay across the ice to Eagle Harbor where they met Ole Larsen on Horseshoe Island.  They walked from the island to the shore and found their site to begin a community.  They named it Ephriam which is an Old Testament word meaning “doubly fruitful”.  In 1853, forty Norwegian/Moravian’s established the first church and first school in Door County.  

FISH CREEK ON GREEN BAY – Asa Thorpe who founded Fish Creek who moved to the community in 1853 with his relatives Jacob and Levi Thorpe.  By 1855, Asa built a dock in Fish Creek establishing the only place between Green Bay and Rock Island that steamships could refuel which helped the village thrive.  In. 1858 the Township of Gibraltar consisted of Fish Creek, Juddville and Maple Grove.

JACKSON PORT ON LAKE MICHIGAN –  The village was first settled in 1848 by fisherman and farmer Neil Blair.  A dock was built in 1861 by Perry Hibbard who was in the lumbering and shipping business.  Jacksonport was established in 1869 and was named after Andrew Jackson who was not the President.  In 1867, C.L. Harris and John Reynolds bought Hibbard’s pier and started an unsuccessful lumber business.  In the 1870’s and 1880’s, many French Canadians from Quebec settled in followed by German and Austrian families.  Commercial fishing and lumbering were the important industries back in the day.  By 1890, due to the diminishing trees, Jacksonport was almost all agricultural.  

LIBERTY GROVE TOWNSHIP – An unhappy citizen of Ephraim, Jasper Morefield, decided he wanted to run his own town.  In 1859, he asked that the area north of Ephraim be setup as a township.  Today the township includes Ellison Bay, Gills Rock and Newport.

ELLISON BAY ON GREEN BAY – In 1848, Danish born Johan Elliason bought a mile of shoreline advertised in Europe and Scandinavia.  In 1866, Ellison Bay was established and got it’s name when the U.S. Land Office left out the “a” in his name and the reason it’s spelled Ellison Bay.

GILLS ROCK ON THE TIP OF THE NORTHERN PENINSULA – Gills Rock was originally known as “Hedgehog Harbor”.  In 1855, Amos Lovejoy anchored his boat in the cove for the winter.  When he launched his ship the next spring, he didn’t realize that a family of porcupines (a/k/a hedgehogs) had decided to live in his ship over the winter.   They chewed holes in the hull and the ship began taking on water so Lovejoy was forced to abandon his ship and come to shore.  The cove changed it’s name to Gills Rock in 1870 in honor of Elias Gill, a prominent lumberman.  Gills Rock is still one of the most active commercial fishing communities in Door County.

SISTER BAY ON GREEN BAY – Increase Clafin name the two small islands that sit outside the harbor in the bay of Green Bay “The Sisters”.   The harbor was soon called Sister Bay and the early settlers adopted the name for their new community.  In 1857, Norwegian John Thoreson, who built the wharf in Little Sister Bay to the south, and Norwegian Ingebret Torgeson who settled permanently to the north in Big Sister Bay were considered the Town of Liberty Grove until they merged into the Village of Sister Bay in 1912.  In the early days, Sister Bay’s economy was built on the lumber industry.

SOUTHERN DOOR – Belgians from mostly the Wallonia region of Belgium arrived south of Sturgeon Bay in 1853.  They established the villages of Namur and Brussels in 1858.  Freeland Gardner came to the area in 1864 and employed over 400 Belgian men in his lumber and shipbuilding operations.  In 1865, the settlement of Union followed, named after the way the residents handled their public matters.  Today, Brussels and Namur are the home to the largest concentration of Belgians in the United States.  In 1858 in the center of southern Door, British, German and Canadian settlers established Maplewood and Forestville.

STURGEON BAY –  In 1835, a hermit by the name of Peter Rowley came to the area after Increase Claflin landed in Little Sturgeon Bay.  Peter Rowley moved north to what is now Rowley’s Bay shortly after the second settler, Peter Sherwood moved in the following year.  New settlers started arriving in the 1850’s, establishing a town called Otumba in 1857.  In 1861, when the town became a city, the residents asked to change the name to Sturgeon Bay.  They wanted the name because of the large sturgeons that filled the bay.  The city’s first industries was lumber, fishing and farming until it became a busy port.  In 1882, the Sturgeon Bay Shipping Canal was opened, linking Green Bay and Lake Michigan.  It saved ship lots of time entering Sturgeon Bay.

WASHINGTON ISLAND –  In 1850, the Town of Washington was founded on the smaller Rock Island.  The new town included the three islands of Washington, Rock and Detroit.  In 1867, a schoolhouse and church were built at Washington Harbor on Washington Island.  Thereafter, most of the residents moved there.  The island is supposedly named after a ship called the Washington that visited the island in 1816.  W.F. Wickman from Denmark persuaded four bachelors in 1870 to move from Iceland to the island.  Today, Washington Island is the second oldest Icelandic community in the United States.  The island’s early settlers were fishermen but lumber, stone and agriculture that included potatoes, cheese and maple syrup were also important.  








If you go through Ephraim, you will pass the Anderson Dock on the north end of the village.  In the late 1850’s, the Anderson Brothers built the dock.  The dock became a port for steamships.  Due to the treacherous waters of Lake Michigan, sailors that reached the dock started carving their names and their boats on the building.  The sailor’s tradition continues today with tourist adding their names too.  Chalk is available for you to add your name when you visit the Anderson Dock.

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