Greetings and salutations,
This past week, we took the sixteen-mile drive south of Sturgeon Bay to the quaint and lovely lakeside village of Algoma, Wisconsin. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan with the Ahnapee River dividing the town, water is Algoma’s most prominent feature. Lets take a little tour around town.
Like a lot of small towns across the US and around the world, Algoma displays a number of welcome signs. The one that most impressed me is the one on the fish cleaning shelter by the public dock right where the Ahnapee River flows into Lake Michigan. Hang the catch and take a photo as a keepsake!
They also have the professionally done welcome signs as visitors enter the village from both directions on Highway 42.
Just down the street from the welcome sign and the visitors’ center, is a large sign directing people to downtown Algoma. There are some vacant buildings in the downtown area but there are enough occupied to give it homey, comfortable feel. One thing I did notice is there was a nice variety of places to eat and pubs to quench one’s thirst.
About ten years ago, Algoma commissioned the Walldogs, a group of talented international mural artists, to paint ten murals depicting things of historical significance to the town. We didn’t see them all but here’s one example for their work. Nicely done.
There’s even a quilt shop that my traveling partner likes to check out when we pass through Algoma, never know if you need some more quilting ideas or fabric!
And I’m intrigued by the refurbished Deep Rock canopy gas station at the corner of Fourth and Steele Street (also Highway 42) with it’s vintage pumps, signs and a couple of old cars thrown in to give it some authenticity. Reminds me of the Standard gas station that used to occupy the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue in my hometown of Hazen, North Dakota.
As we drove around town, I found this old co-op grain elevator fascinating, don’t see many of these left around the country, especially still in use. Again, it brings to mind my youth when I would accompany Dad to town in the old ’51 Ford truck to sell grain or buy cattle feed. There were always a few farmers passing the time in the office while waiting to pay or be paid. As was the case when more than one farmer gathered, they stood around talking about the grain prices (usually too low), the weather (either too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry), swapped few stories and told a joke or two while waiting to do commerce at the elevator. I can imagine the same thing happened here.
This is a good time to share a bit of history of Algoma, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin. Algoma, with a current population of over 3000 people, was settled in 1851 primarily by English and Irish pioneers although the community also soon became home to immigrants from Germany, Bohemia, Scandinavia and Belgium. At first the new town was call Wolf River, then later Ahnapee (meaning the land of the great gray wolf) and eventually Algoma meaning “where the waters meet” or “park of flowers” depending on which source you consider. The wolf was so prominent in the history of the town that the Algoma High School mascot is the Wolves. The town grew steadily especially after the arrival of the railroad from Green Bay. Eventually, there were a number of factories, a sawmill, a fishing fleet and all the businesses that supported these endeavors and the people who labored there.
As mentioned earlier, water is important to Algoma as it supports one of it’s biggest attractions, sport fishing. Lake Michigan, the Ahnapee River and nearby lakes provide folks interested in fishing tons of year around fun. For some, it’s the big water for Chinook salmon or rainbow trout, for others it’s along the shoreline or river for whitefish, walleye, and pike. The lakes are a source for perch, bass, bluegills and other types of fishing pleasure. Locally, there are a number of fishing guides and charter services available to help those with that urge to drop a line in the water.
I just read an article that people are attracted to towns that have a “river walk” even though they don’t have a river! And Algoma has its version, the Crescent Beach and Boardwalk that extends for about a half mile along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The day we visited, sunny with a cool, brisk west wind, there were a few walkers but geese and ducks primarily populated the beach! Here’s a photo of the Crescent Beach taken from the Visitors Center.
From this photo, in the distance you can see one of the most recognizable features of this village, the Algoma North Pierhead Lighthouse. The first light was constructed in the 1890’s to guide the developing commercial fishing business operating out of the Algoma harbor. The current light was built in 1908 and extended in height in 1932. Over the years, lighthouse keepers came and went until 1976 when the Coast Guard automated the light. The light was given an upgrade in 2014 as well as a new coat of red paint. It’s hard to miss when checking out the waterfront.
Nearby the ducks, geese and gulls were guarding the harbor or maybe just waiting for the wind to die down!
From almost anywhere in Algoma, visitors can see St. Mary’s Catholic Church built on a raised bluff on the north side of the Ahnapee River. St. Mary’s Parish was organized by German and Bohemian immigrants in 1860 with the current church built in 1906. Pretty stately I must say.
Coming into town from the south, visitors can’t miss the city’s Fire and Rescue Memorial. It contains the names of over 300 men and women who have given their time and labor to keep Algoma safe since 1874. Nice touch, we see a lot of military service memorials around the country but not many dedicated to those who serve at home.
Nearby is a site that visitors might miss unless they want to walk down to the beach from the Memorial. It’s the WPA Staircase that was built in 1939 by eleven men working for the Works Progress Administration. It’s still standing as a testament of the hard, manual labor millions of workers performed to help bring the US out of the Great Depression.
To close out our visit to Algoma, we stopped by the von Stiehl Winery for a sampling of their wares. We had a nice time, tasting a few of their 40 grape and fruit wine recipes. And of course, we walked out with more than a few bottles for later enjoyment. Since we were feeling quite mellow after our tastings at the winery, we decided to save our visit to the Ahnapee Brewery just down the street from the winery until the next time we are in Algoma.
That does it for this week, hope you enjoyed our brief tour around Algoma.
Next up, more Door County photos and stories.
Until next week, travel safe.