The Door County Historical Museum was founded in 1939 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. The original building was built as a project of the Works Progress Administration, one of the government-led Great Depression work programs. The basis for the museum's collection came from two men, Harry Dankoler and Hjalmar Holand. Dankoler was a collector historical items from the area and Holand preserved written memories of people in the county. The Door County Historical Society acquired the men's work and opened the museum. The museum has expanded over years and now includes several exhibits such as the wildlife diorama, the replica 1900 Pioneer Fire Company building which houses three restored trucks, and a typical Door County street scene featuring a school, grocer, pharmacy, etc. Admission to the museum is free.
The building was completed in 1939 as a
museum. It was during the Great Depression and was built as a
WPA project during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Long before
this time a local man, Harry Dankoler, began collecting things that were old,
realizing the importance of saving the parts of history so that others might always
be able to appreciate it. At the same time,
another Door County resident, Hjalmar Holand, also with a great interest in
history, was busy preserving the written memories of the
County. With the backing of the newly formed Door County Historical
Society, they worked to provide the basis for this museum. Early photos
show it as it was - the typical museum of its time with shelves and shelves of
old things being preserved, but not necessarily interpreted as is done today. Some of the unique things on display at the museum include:
Fire Company -
The museum's fire station is a replica of the
turn-of-the-century building that served Sturgeon Bay's original Pioneer
Fire Company. It houses three fully restored trucks and
fire-fighting artifacts. Children of all ages may sit on the replicas. You
will also find other larger displays including a jail cell from the vacated
jail building and an old horse drawn hearse.
Door County has been
known for its apple and cherry orchards for years. Why is it that Door
County is well suited for these crops? Why not Kewaunee or Brown Counties
to the south? Learn of the earliest beginnings of this business and see
some of the equipment used in the growing and processing of these fruits.
Ethnic History -
The majority of the original European settlers
came to Door County in the mid to late 1800s during Wisconsin’s early statehood
years. There were, however many native peoples who had settled here much
earlier. Many groups brought their traditions with them. Which of
them began the fish boils that have now become famous? Learn more about early
settlers at the museum.
War History -
Like all areas of our
country, many Door County men served during the several wars in our
Folk Craft -
In the days when
shopping was not as convenient, many crafts were done by both men and women.Door
County had its share of them and many examples left by these artisans are on
display at the museum.
Wildlife Diorama -
Mike Orthober, national
award winning artist and taxidermist, created a spectacular natural history
wildlife diorama. It encompasses four seasons and features a life-sized
beech tree along with native species including over 100 birds, white-tailed
deer, bear, badger, fisher and more.
A phone app for a walking/driving tour of Sturgeon
Bay’s remaining incised sidewalk stones. The incised cement blocks were
originally installed in the early 1900s, on corners to mark street names or in
front of local homes or businesses. They are a part of our history that
is slowly disappearing when sidewalks are replaced. Also included on the
app is a short history of original homes located nearby.
The lower level of the
museum features a street scene that includes storefronts and rooms representing
many early Door County businesses such as a seamstress, grocery, blacksmith,
pharmacy, bank, printer, dime store, music shop, photo shop, post office and
schoolhouse. You will also find a display of Old fashion equipment.