Greetings and salutations,
Welcome to this weeks post, the first of several from Door County Wisconsin. By the time you read this post, we will have finished day 25 of a 26-day stay at Potawatomi State Park near Sturgeon Bay. This is our second year serving as campground hosts at Pot Park as the locals call it. In exchange for no camping fees, we do some daily chores around the campground and assist campers when needed. We’ve had mostly great weather with last Friday reaching over 70° F (21° C for my followers from other parts of the world), we did have a couple days of rain and a few windy days but for the most part it was great. When the wind blows up here, it reminds me of the winds in North Dakota, fierce and chilling! Sad that our stay is coming to a close, Door County is really growing on us, nice people and lots of activities going on. For example, Thursday night we attended a program titled Wild Words that uses the Japanese presentation style called Pecha Kucha (interpreted “chit, chat”). This style uses 20 slides (photos, Powerpoint, etc.) each shown for 20 seconds for a total presentation time of six minutes and 40 seconds. It’s meant to be concise and fast paced. The Door County Land Preservation Trust sponsored this event with the theme Door County treasures. There were nine presenters from ages 15 to 80, all were excellent and inspiring. It’s stuff like this that intrigues and draws us back again and again.
Now on to this week’s post with some Door County area towns I found intriguing. As we were driving up here on September 28, we noticed town names like Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg and Brussels. So that set me to wondering how these and others in the area got their names. Then I remembered there was a Door County township (not a village, town or city) named Sevastapol. That curiosity let me to the Sturgeon Bay library to seek out information on these town names. With that in mind, I’ll take you to three locations within a short drive from our location in Door County.
If you recall from last week’s post, in early September we hosted Alina from Ukraine who lived in Sevastapol on the Crimean Peninsula until 2014 a part of Ukraine now occupied by Russia. So I thought it very appropriate to include in this post. First a little background, a township is a unit of local government that is subordinate to a county. The Township of Sevastapol is located in the central part of the Door County peninsula consisting of 90 square miles with about 40% being water. Within it’s boundaries there are three unincorporated (not chartered as self-governing thereby lacking tax and policing powers) communities, Institute, Valmy and Whitefish Bay. You probably get the drift that it’s pretty rural, you’d be right. There are some very fine apple and cherry orchards, a number of large dairy and crop farms plus a number of niche small farms that produce a variety of products. Add to that a lot of trees, natural areas and a state park, Whitefish Dunes. Since tourism is one of the main industries in Door County, there are a number of art galleries, studios, restaurants, and other small businesses catering to summer residents, tourists and residents alike. And off course supporters of the Packers!
The Town of Sevastapol was organized in 1859 with the original name Laurieville after a prominent early settler to the area. However, many of the local farmers didn’t like this name so a meeting was organized to choose a new name, several were brought up but found not to be suitable. A few years prior, the Crimean War had taken place and was prominent in the news. One of the farmers had a basic knowledge of this war and suggested the town be named after a town of great beauty, Sebestapol, the large seaport on Crimean Peninsula and Black Sea. The name was adopted with an English translation. So there you have it, Sevastapol. The Town Hall is located in Institute, a very small town consisting of a church, a public school, an auto repair shop, a second hand store (open on an intermittent basis as far as I can tell) and of course, a tavern. There was an old fella sitting on the bench outside the bar waiting for a ride. I struck up a conversation about the area. He told me the bar had a long and interesting history, why there was even a plaque at the entrance chronicling it’s past. He also told me that the community was named for the now closed Catholic boarding school, the Institute. He said troubled kids from the city were sent there to get straightened out. Must have worked because they closed the school for the lack of patrons! (My sarcastic best guess!) Here’s a look at the town of Sevastapol and community of Institute.
The small public school educated all grades including high school. I was impressed that they had an FFA Chapter and a plaque outside the school recognizing a long time ag teacher. I’m sure he made an impact on a lot of area kids during his long teaching career.
Now on to Brussels (both the township and unincorporated community) located in southern Door County. It too is a farming community but with better land as evidenced by the well kept, prosperous looking farmsteads. The town of Brussels boasts the largest Belgian-American settlement in the US. Most of the Belgian settlers were Walloons, a group that spoke a dialect of French. Many of the settlers built red brick houses similar to the old country that can be seen as one travels around the area. The community of Brussels had a couple of feed mills, a café (lots of pickups, guessing farmers having coffee talking crop prices, politics and fishing), a grocery store and gas station.
The residents of Brussels find enjoyment in this seemingly unique activity, off season snowmobile drag racing! Must be getting ready for the colder weather that’s coming soon!
Just south of the community of Brussels we passed a restaurant called the Belgian Delight. Since it was about mid morning coffee time, we made a quick U-turn, parked and seeing that it was busy quickly grabbed the only table open for two that had clean coffee cups and silverware. So what does one have when in a Belgian restaurant, why a Belgian waffle of course, she with cherries and me with blueberries. Quite delicious!
Just across the road from the restaurant was another “typical” Belgian style farm homes, two story red brick.
After filling our bellies, we head further south passing out of Door into Kewaunee County. There we explored the village of Luxemburg with a population of about 2500 residents. Compared to Sevastapol, Institute and Brussels, Luxemburg is a thriving metropolis. It has many businesses, some small manufacturing, a downtown area and one of the most opulent banks around. In fact we saw a lot of financial institutions, must be a lot of wealth in the area. As around Brussels, the farms we saw were neat and well maintained. As one would expect, Luxemburg was named after Luxembourgers, that is folks from the European country of Luxembourg. It’s interesting to note that here in the US, the Luxembourgers are surrounded by folks mostly from Belgium and other nationalities. In Europe, Belgium, France and Germany surround the tiny country of Luxembourg. Everyone fighting for their own identity! Here are some photos from our stop in Luxemburg, Wisconsin.
So there you have it three places in northeastern Wisconsin with interesting names, histories and people. Hope you enjoyed the visit.
Until next week, travel safe.
8 thoughts on “Sevastapol? Brussels? Luxemburg? Whaaaat?”
I like this post very much! Being from Brussels I can appreciate a photo of the church that is only a half mile east of my childhood home, which was a brick farm house. The original Belgian houses were wood structures. Most were destroyed in the Peshtigo fire and replaced with brick due to a lack of building material.
Thanks for you comment. The church is impressive, I wish I could have done more photographically to show it off. The cemetery is also fascinating, wanted to include a photo or two but there was a large white motorhome in the background that was too distracting. I hope I did your home town justice, I find it so coincidental that you grew up in Brussels and are a reader of my blog. Thanks again for taking the time to read and comment.
At first I thought you had taken a trip to Europe! Thanks for the interesting tour. It’s good to know I won’t need a passport to visit these interesting towns.
I would like to visit these cities in Europe but until then NE Wisconsin will have to do!
Great post Tom. I think you found your calling.
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Thanks. Sure took a long time to figure it out!
I sure like the fact that I don’t need to do research. I just wait until Tom takes and interest and it is done for me. Interesting. Sorry we have not gotten together. Things keep getting in the way. I am coming up tomorrow to spend two days with my brother and his wife. Karen is having a root canal.
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Thanks Bob. The leaves are at peak up here. Heading for home tomorrow morning.
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