Door County Potpourri

Hi everyone,

This is the Door County “clean-up” edition. By that I mean there a few unrelated photos that require a short story to go with them. That’s why I call it potpourri, a mixture of sites and stories. Let’s get started.

Every Wednesday evening from June through mid-August, Harmony by the Bay Concerts takes place in Sturgeon Bay’s Martin Park. The concert line-up is organized by Destination Sturgeon Bay, the local promotional group. While we were camp hosting in nearby Potawatomi State Park, we attended one of the free concerts, the band was Stone Sober. They played a wide array of genres from classic and modern country, blues, and rock and roll. My guess is there were nearly a thousand people that brought their own chairs or spread blankets on the ground to enjoy the music and the evening. We would have attended more of the concerts but they were rained out and moved inside where social distancing was not possible. Thanks for organizing Destination Sturgeon Bay!

Door County is known for growing cherries. When European settlers began moving into the Door Peninsula in the mid-1800s, they tried growing all kinds of crops on the shallow, rocky soil with little success. Around the time of the War Between the States, a few farmers began planting apple tree finally finding a crop that thrived in mild climate moderated by the Bay of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. A couple of decades later, researchers tried many varieties of fruit and berry crops and found that cherries grew well in this soil and climate. It didn’t take long until thousands of cherry trees were being planted and produce the bright red fruit used in pies, sauces, jams, and juices. The predominate variety of cherry grown in Door County is the tart variety, requiring a lot of sugar to make those tasty treats. During our stay, we tried a couple of fresh baked cherry pies from Wienke’s Market, Grandma Tommy’s (we liked this one the best) and the Renards Cheese Shop located a few miles south of Sturgeon Bay.

That’s a long lead up to the real story. As we explored Sturgeon Bay, we saw several oversized decorated cherries at various locations in the downtown area. This is another project of Destination Sturgeon Bay. Artists decorated twenty-five cherries in a variety of ways like the one below located outside the Door County Maritime Museum. The decorated cherries were to be sold last year but like a lot of things, the sale was postponed until September 18th. You too could own one of these unique items by clicking here!

Sticking with Sturgeon Bay, I’ve mentioned the “Old Bridge” or the “Michigan Street Bridge” or the “Sturgeon Bay Bridge” in previous posts. By the way, I think that’s a lot of names for one bridge. Regardless, I like that old bridge. On several occasions, we had to wait for the draw bridge to lower before crossing. Apparently, it raises and lowers about once an hour to allow large watercraft to pass under the bridge but not impede traffic too much. In the second photo below, the bridge raised for a sailboat to pass.

There are three bridges that connect Southern Door County to the North. On the day this photo was taken, we were on the Highway 42/57 bridge, the newest, waiting for the bridge to lower.

Speaking of those bridges, this structure has made two trips across the Shipping Canal in recent years. Built on the west waterfront in 1901 on Sturgeon Bay, the Teweles and Brandeis Grain Elevator served as way for local farmers export their harvest to the U.S. and the world. It’s the last remaining link to Sturgeon Bay’s agricultural heritage. The elevator was closed in the early 1950’s and sat empty until 2012 when the City of Sturgeon Bay purchased the building and the land it sat on. After the city fire chief ordered the building demolished, the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society took action by getting the structure named to state and national registers of historical places. Donors chipped in $1.25 million for restoration and the elevator was moved to the east waterfront. It sat there a couple of years while plans were made to turn the building into a visitors center. After considerable debate by the city council, the elevator was moved back across the Shipping Canal to the west waterfront where it now sits next to the Door County Maritime Museum waiting for restoration to begin. There is a plan in place and I for one can’t wait to see the final result.

One of our favorite places to visit when in Door County is the Sturgeon Bay Public Library. They have fast and free WiFi, comfortable seating, and a great array of reading materials. A few years ago, we applied for a library card to check out books and movies while staying in the campground. The library friends group also holds used book sales, we attend two this year and walked out with a big bag of books each time. Attached to the library is the Miller Art Museum. Admission is free and the volunteer docents very helpful. I rarely pass up an opportunity to look at a photography exhibit like the one described below. The Door County based photographer who took these photos does work for the National Geographic. The photos were exquisite and the narrative that went with each photo was informative. If you get a chance, stop by and see this exhibit and the other art work on display. For more information, click here.

Sticking with the art theme, on one of our drives around Door County, we made a stop at the Hardy Gallery in the village of Ephraim. This gallery is located on the historical Anderson Dock. The Dock and the Warehouse were built in the 1850’s and soon became the business and social center of the village. It was a custom for boaters to paint their vessel’s name on the Warehouse siding. In recent years, family names, lovers, marriage proposals, and sayings have appeared on the siding. It’s a treat just to see those. But inside, the Gallery displays and promotes local art and artists. From July 17 to August 29, the Hardy featured the Collection Invitational. Forty local artists were asked to display two of their pieces, one of them would be donated and sold through a silent auction to benefit the Hardy Gallery. As we walked through the gallery, we were impressed with the breadth and quality of the art work. I know two of the featured artists, both photographers. The Hardy Gallery is open through October 10th. I recommend a stop even if it’s to see the siding up close.

Up the road from Ephraim past Sister Bay along Highway 42 lies the village of Ellison Bay, population about 200. When driving north towards the tip of Door County, one can’t help but notice the landmark, Gus Klenke Garage, with the bright red chair setting out front. Gus opened his garage in the 1920’s selling Standard Oil products. The gas pumps are long gone and Gus is dead but his garage lives on as a lesson in perservance and a look back at the old days. There is an old Chevy pickup off to the side (not shown) decorated with an abundance of annual flowers. I’ve photographed this garage in the past and will stop again on our next trip to Door County. This time I notice an old white wall tire displayed in one of the side windows, another throwback to the old days. The lesson here is that not everything old is an eyesore! 

This ends the current Door County series. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing and learning more about what Door County has to offer visitors. Thanks for riding along.

Until next week, happy travels!


4 thoughts on “Door County Potpourri

  1. (If this comment is a duplicate my apologies. Couldn’t tell if it took the first time)

    Fun series, Tom. I really enjoyed “revisiting” Door County. We only lived in Green Bay for 2 1/2 years and that was in the 70s and haven’t returned since. Brought back so many memories for us. Art fairs in the summer, cross-country skiing on Peninsula State Park’s golf course in the winter followed by lunch at Al Johnson’s, fall drives on Glidden Rd., spring walks in the Ridges Sanctuary followed by a Whiskey Sour at the Bailey’s Harbor Yacht Club, buying cherry wine at Von Stiehl Winery, and so many more. We had planned to finally go back last year but something got in the way (oh, wait, a pandemic, lol). Great job!

    1. We first went to Door County in 1986, a year before moving to Wisconsin. Then sporadically until 6-7 years ago, now every year sometimes twice. We rented a house for the month of July 2022 to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years, some attracting even more tourists. On the other hand, the scenery is protected by vigorous county regulation that some despise. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Thanks Tim. It’s easy to be an ambassador for Door County. We are going again two weeks from today but only for five days.

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