100-Year Anniversary: What was Bay Shore Inn like 100 years ago?

Whether you’ve been spending summers at Bay Shore Inn with your family for generations or you just started including us in your summer vacations, we’re here to celebrate our 100 Year Anniversary with you and to share all the memories and parts of Bay Shore Inn we all love.

Our 100-year anniversary was officially June 11, 2022, but we’re celebrating all year long and wanted to share with you some of our history. So, here’s our story…we know…it’s not short but we promise it’ll be interesting!

Bay Shore Inn’s 100-Year History

Our property was originally the Hanson Farmstead during the time when Door County was known for its dairy farms, cherry orchards, and stone quarries. Sturgeon Bay was home to a burgeoning shipbuilding industry and a couple of breweries. 

In the 1920s the Hanson family decided to pursue a different line of work and join the growing recreation resort enterprise. Ma (Matilda) Hanson was known as the best cook in the county who never turned down a traveler who showed up at mealtime, so it just made sense. Guests became regulars and often stayed awhile to visit or even spend the night. Farmland was sold off and the barn was converted into a guest lodge, which opened for business in 1922. 

Duke Hanson, his wife Betty, and sister Elizabeth became the second generation to operate the resort. In fact, Duke was born in 1907 in the family home on the property. Duke took care of the buildings and grounds while Betty ran the reservation desk and Elizabeth ran the kitchen. A large vegetable garden provided fresh produce in season. 

Over the years, as the business succeeded and grew, additional housing units began to dot the property. The well landscaped and treed property was known for its gardens, and still is. Guest reservations were made in weekly segments, Saturday to Saturday, and included breakfast and dinner.

The Inn soon developed a reputation for outstanding food. They were known for their all-you-can eat Sunday brunch and of course the much-anticipated Friday night fish boil, which was open to the public. Picnic tables were set up on the lawn between the lodge and the Bay. A large metal drum filled with salt water and all the ingredients were cooked up over a wood kindling fire and brought to a slow boil in a large wire basket. After a period of anticipation, kerosene was added to the fire for a great “flaming show” as the boil-over would take place.

There was plenty to do at Bay Shore Inn. There was a game and crafts room on the second floor of the lodge. Card tables and chairs were set up for cards and jigsaw puzzles where everyone would drop by to add pieces. On the front porch that wrapped around to the Bay side were red rocking chairs where guests could socialize. There was a shuffleboard court, croquette, badminton, and tennis court. In later years a game building was added that contained a pool table and ping-pong as well as an arcade. Chaise lounges and chairs were set up on the beachside lawn. Along the beach wall were row boats, canoes, and Sunfish sail boats. Guests were treated to a sail on the “Matilda” as well as free water-skiing lessons. Duke would take passengers on sightseeing cruises with a historical lecture of Sturgeon Bay in the power launch, “Duchess.”

As the business grew, Paul Mathias came on board as the general manager of the Inn as well as head chef and baker. Paul eventually became part owner with the Hanson family. Susie, who became his wife, started by waiting tables in the trade-mark BSI red apron, and ended running the front-end operations.  John Hanson, Duke’s son came back to Sturgeon Bay for the summer to assist his dad with the buildings and grounds as well as taking over the boat tours and daily water-skiing tow lines and lessons. In 1985 Duke passed and the owners decided it was time to recreate the business in line with the trends in the resort industry. In 1991 the new Bay Shore Inn began operations, and is what we all know and love today.

We’re having a great year celebrating our 100-year anniversary! If you haven’t joined us for the celebration yet, check out our 100-Year Anniversary Special where you get some exclusive 100-Year Anniversary gifts when you stay five or more nights with us. We look forward to celebrating with you!