Historic Bay Shore Inn
A Storied Past: 5 Historic Landmarks in Sturgeon Bay
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    Posted: June 9, 2017

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What do historic landmarks, incredible views, and complete relaxation have in common? Sturgeon Bay in Door County, Wisconsin! Named for the fish-shaped bay it borders, this quaint lakeside community boasts an intricate history.

Sturgeon Bay was humbly settled in 1850 and quickly made its mark as a maritime trade town with the construction of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal in the 1880s.

This lucrative trade route granted access to Lake Michigan, offering merchants an alternative to the risky waters of Death’s Door near the top of the peninsula, the namesake of Door County. But that’s only one piece of Sturgeon Bay’s storied past – come for a visit, and see these 5 historic landmarks for yourself.


Door County Maritime Museum

Originally founded by a citizens’ group in 1969, the Door County Maritime Museum provides engaging exhibits that help to keep the peninsula’s vibrant history along the water alive.

In 1997, enough funds were raised to complete a year-round facility for visitors to tour. From this point on, the Door County Maritime Museum has made an ongoing commitment to showcasing accurate, historical displays utilizing interactive elements.

You’ll discover a variety of galleries and exhibits, featuring local shipbuilders, lighthouses, shipwreck sites, and a restored 1960s tugboat on the water. This behind-the-scenes look at Sturgeon Bay’s maritime history is truly a must-see.


Scenic Tower in Potawatomi State Park

Named after the tribe that inhabited the Green Bay area when white settlers first arrived, Potawatomi State Park was founded in 1928 and was in consideration for National Parks status upon its opening. This Sturgeon Bay treasure offers 1,200 acres of rolling woods, containing vast limestone cliffs and naturally subtle beauty.

The Potawatomi Tower was built shortly after the park was founded and provides a breathtaking panoramic view of surrounding areas within a 16 mile viewing radius. When at the top, it’s hard not to imagine what early Door County life must’ve been like.


Sturgeon Bay (Michigan Street) Bridge

This historic structure was built in 1929, for the purpose of connecting upper and lower Door County. The Sturgeon Bay Bridge (known as the Michigan Street Bridge by many) is 1,420 ft. long and one of the most unique bridges in the state.

Over the years, this Sturgeon Bay landmark has undergone several rehabilitations to ensure safety and structural integrity. At one time, the bridge was in danger of being demolished. However, a local group created Steel Bridge Songfest to combat the demo plans, which found great success. The structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

This priceless piece of Sturgeon Bay history is celebrated throughout the peninsula and commemorated in the Steel Bridge Songfest, which is still held each summer.


Sturgeon Bay Canal and Sherwood Point Lighthouses

We recently reviewed these three Sturgeon Bay lighthouses, and they cannot go unmentioned. The impact these beacons have had on Door County trade and culture has been substantial.

The Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Light Tower and North Pierhead Light were built in the 1880s and 90s, providing much needed guidance for merchants and sailors navigating the bay’s waters. These beacons are still operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and have limited public access, however, you can still marvel at their historic intricacies from ground level.

The Sherwood Point Lighthouse was constructed in 1883, in order to direct ships traveling from Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay. This historic structure stands 35 feet tall and includes a brick, keeper’s dwelling.

This landmark, today, is used as a popular retreat location for U.S. military members and their families.


Of course…Bay Shore Inn

Established in the 1920s by the Hanson family, Bay Shore Inn was initially a renovated barn turned guest lodge. This was a simple, yet warm and welcoming place to stay the night and enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal. In fact, Matilda Hanson had a reputation as one of the best cooks in the county!

As time went by, our accommodating reputation spread, and additional housing units were completed. By the early 1980s, we had grown considerably, leading us to fully renovate our building and grounds to the relaxing resort that you know and love.

Today, we continue to find ways to improve our service and provide amenities for our amazing guests. Our goal, at Bay Shore Inn, is to continue building our legacy in Sturgeon Bay’s historic community.


If you’re ready to see a few of these landmarks (or make a bit of history, yourself), book your stay at Bay Shore Inn today! We’re your historic, relaxation headquarters. Give us a call at 1-800-556-4551.