A Prosperous Port on Green Bay
Village life has always revolved around this deep water port.
The community of Sister Bay was born in 1870 when the firm of Henderson, Coon & Dimond built a pier, sawmill, grist mill, hotel, and two stores. They hired Swedish woodchoppers from Marinette to cut timber from the wilderness for their mill. As lumbering declined, the deep harbor welcomed steamboats filled with tourists who flocked here for relaxation and recreation.
Strapping Swedish lumberjacks crowded into Sister Bay lumber camps. One famous champion woodchopper, known as "Long John", had an appetite to match. A Sister Bay storekeeper bet $5 that he couldn't eat five dozen eggs from the counter. Long John accepted on the condition that he also get a pint of whiskey. He ate all the eggs, drank his whiskey, then went home and still had room for a loaf of bread and a pan of milk. (H.R Holand, History of Door County, 1917
Growing Village Faces Tragedy
When shipping vessels began using the canal at Sturgeon Bay in the late 1800s, the deep harbor and ample wood supply of Sister Bay became an important stop for log refueling. The community prospered and was incorporated as a village in 1912. That same year, however, tragedy struck as a great fire burned through the downtown.
Village of Sister Bay was practically destroyed by fire... four store buildings, a large hotel and residence being wiped out. Hundreds of people visited the scene of the conflagration the day following, coming from all parts of the county. Summer tourists shopping at Ephraim and Fish Creek were numerous and many took Kodak pictures of the ruins, which smoldered all the day after."- Door County Advocate, July 26, 1912
Steamships Bring Tourists
As lumbering declined, entrepreneurs opened restaurants, hotels, and stores to attract the ever increasing number of tourists in Door County. Steamboats carrying passengers replaced the shipping vessels loaded with timber.
· Andrew Roeser purchased the pier and mills in 1878. Employees of Roeser posed for this 1904 photo on company boats. Note the stacked logs in the background.
· Downtown Sister Bay prior to the 1912 fire.
· Downtown Sister Bay the day after the 1912 fire. The buildings are still smoldering.
· Liberty Park Hotel, built in 1888 just north of the village, was the area's first tourist resort. It is still open today.
· All photos are courtesy of the Sister Bay Historical Society.