An Historic Coast Guard City
For over 140 years, the City of Sturgeon Bay has enjoyed a long and productive relationship with the United States Coast Guard and its predecessor services. In 1873 the Lighthouse Establishment began setting buoys to mark the treacherous Dunlap Reef in the heart of the city's historic port. The Lighthouse Board decided to construct a set of lighthouses in 1880 to mark the reef and serve as range lights to guide mariners safely to the city's rapidly expanding waterfront. The establishment of the Dunlap Reef Light Station in 1881 began the legacy of Coast Guardsmen calling Sturgeon Bay home. Over the decades that followed, the addition of three more lighthouses, a life-saving station, several cutters and scores of marine inspection and port security personnel would bring thousands of Coast Guardsmen to the shores of Sturgeon Bay. This wonderful legacy continues as today the men and women of Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay, Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay and Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Sturgeon Bay call the city their home.
Of the many local Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard units, perhaps none is more symbolic of the city's enduring relationship with the Coast Guard than Station Sturgeon Bay. Known locally as "the canal station," Station Sturgeon Bay stands steadfastly at the head of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal on the very location
personally hand-picked by legendary U.S. Life-Saving Service General Superintendant Sumner Kimball in 1883. U.S. Life-Saving Service Station Sturgeon Bay would become U.S. Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay when the Revenue Cutter Service and Life-Saving Service merged in 1915 to form the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard Cutters of Sturgeon Bay
Several Coast Guard cutters that have called Sturgeon Bay home and scores of others that have visited the port over the years as they went about their official duties. The archives of local newspapers chronicle with great pride the numerous Revenue Cutter Service vessels and Lighthouse Service tenders that called on the port in the days of sail and steam. A separate informational plaque nearby provides more details on the cutters of Sturgeon Bay.
The U.S. Coast Guard traces its roots to 1790 when the first Congress authorized the building of ten vessels known as "cutters" to enforce the new nation's trade and tariff laws. One of the Nation's five armed forces, the U.S. Coast Guard is simultaneously and at all times a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to safety, security, and stewardship. Sturgeon Bay is truly a Coast Guard city, sharing a long, rich heritage with the local Coast Guard units and the many Coast Guardsmen and their families who have called Sturgeon Bay home during their tours of duty. The City celebrates its ongoing relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard annually during Maritime Week in late July.
Sturgeon Bay's many shipyards have spawned a long and fruitful relationship with Coast Guard marine inspectors dating back to the days of the Steamboat Inspection Service. The Coast Guard personnel from Marine Safety Detachment Sturgeon Bay are the latest in a "long blue line" of maritime safety and security experts to call Sturgeon Bay home.
Sturgeon Bay's many shipyards and critical maritime infrastructure were the impetus for an influx of Coast Guard port security personnel to the city during World War II. Pictured to the left, a World War II era Coast Guardsman stands watch on the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.
From the days when townspeople would picnic near the station to observe the weekly lifeboat drills to the secure feeling residents still enjoy when seeing the modern-day guardians patrolling the city's waterfront, Sturgeon Bay holds great affection for its Coast Guard Station.
Since 1886, the men and women of Coast Guard Station Sturgeon Bay have patrolled the waters of the Door Peninsula, rendering aid to mariners in distress, enforcing the Nation's maritime laws and ensuring the safety and security of all who venture on or near the water. These photos contrast the crew of U.S. Life-Saving Service Station Sturgeon Bay (forerunner of the Coast Guard) with its modern counterpart (2012).