Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Door County | Wisconsin Public Television

Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Door County

Wisconsin Hometown Stories: Door County

Historians, local citizens and experts tell stories of tourism, cherries, art, and geology that capture the history of Door County. Viewers will also explore ethnic heritages that still thrive across the land, its art history, and efforts to preserve both the land and the natural beauty that define one of Wisconsin’s most charming places.

Premiere date: Jun 24, 2016

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Chase, Jessie Kalmbach

Jessie Kalmbach Chase painted scenes of Door County and Wisconsin landscapes using oils and watercolors. This Baileys Harbor native was born on November 22, 1879 to Albert and Dora Kalmbach. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and then worked as a stained glass window designer at the Temple Art Glass Company in Chicago.

Claflin, Mary and Increase

Mary and Increase Claflin are considered Door County’s first white settlers. Born on September 19, 1795 in Windham, New York, Increase was a soldier who later worked as a fur trader. Mary was born in 1801 in Boston, Massachusetts. She and Increase married in 1818 when she was just 17 years old.

Fulkerson, Mertha

For almost 35 years, Mertha Fulkerson was the backbone of The Clearing, an education center in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Fulkerson was born to Edwin and Bertha Fulkerson in La Paz, Indiana, in 1906. The family later moved to Highland Park in 1917. There she met Jens Jensen, a well-known landscape architect and conservationist. Jensen hired Fulkerson as his secretary in 1924, a job she would have for the rest of Jensen’s life.

Harris, Joseph

Joseph Harris was a driving force in building the canal in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. He was born in London, England, in 1813. Harris married Charlotte Singleton. Together they had five children. Harris sailed with his family to New York in 1849. The family made their way to Door County in 1855, settling near Otumba, which is now known as Sturgeon Bay.

Hotz, Ferdinand

Ferdinand Hotz once owned over 1,400 acres around the Fish Creek and Newport areas in Wisconsin, making him the largest landowner in the county at the time. A skilled businessman and artist, Hotz bought much of his land because he enjoyed forests, hiking, and connecting to nature.

Iverson, Andreas

Many communities emerged on the Door County Peninsula during the 1800s. One of the first was Ephraim, Wisconsin, a small town that sits on the west side of the county. Ephraim was founded in 1853 by Reverend Andreas Iverson and a small group of his church members.

Kahquados, Chief Simon

The Potawatomi were already living in the area now known as Wisconsin when the first Europeans arrived in 1634. The last Potawatomi chief living in Wisconsin died onNovember 27, 1930. His name was Chief Simon Onanguisse Kahquados.

Miller, Gerhard

A lifelong resident of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Gerhard Miller was a talented painter known as the “Dean of the Door County Painters.” He was born on April 12, 1903 to Adolph and Molly Miller. Miller lost the ability to walk due to polio at age 11. His grandmother taught him to crochet to give him something to do while he recovered from the disease. He soon grew tired of the craft and began drawing and painting.

Thordarson, Chester Hjörtur

Rock Island was once owned almost in its entirety by Chester Hjörtur Thordarson, an inventor with a deep passion for learning, books, and nature. While he was later known as Chester, Thordarson was actually born Hjörtur Thordarson in northern Iceland on May 12, 1867.

Toft, Emma

Emma Toft, “Wisconsin’s First Lady of Conservation,” was born on February 9, 1891 near Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin. Emma was the seventh of Julie Anne and Thomas Toft’s eight children. Her parents taught her about the trees and wildlife. She gained an appreciation for nature and retained that appreciation throughout her life.

Tourtelot, Madeline Tripp

Madeline Tripp Tourtelot found success around every corner during her life. Not only was she an accomplished painter, but also a sculptor, weaver, jeweler, photographer, and filmmaker. She founded two art schools in Door County as well.

Zettel, Joseph

Joseph Zettel introduced fruit growing to Door County. He was born in Switzerland on November 26, 1832 to Joseph and Mary Zettel. After a 53-day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, Zettel arrived in the United States at the age of 19.


Door County

Explore this map of Door County

Door County Highway System

Explore the Door County highway system through this map.

Door County Topography

View a topographical map of Door County

Lake Michigan - North End

Explore this map of the north end of Lake Michigan, published by NOAA in 2005.

Points of Interest

Death's Door

Death’s Door is a strait that links the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. It is located between the northern tip of the Door County Peninsula and Plum Island and Pilot Island. The strait’s name comes from its French name, Porte des Morts. In English, this means “door of the dead.” Door County's name comes from the name of the strait.

Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment stretches nearly 1,000 miles in an arc from Wisconsin to New York. An escarpment is a made from sloping layers of dolomite rock that can break off, leaving steep slopes or cliffs. The 250-mile section of Niagara Escarpment in Wisconsin is sometimes called “The Ledge.”

Pottawatomie Lighthouse

Pottawatomie Lighthouse is the oldest light station in Wisconsin and on Lake Michigan. It is also known as Rock Island Lighthouse. Pottawatomie Lighthouse is located at the top of a steep cliff on the north side of Rock Island. Originally, it used 11 oil lamps and reflectors to send a beacon of light across the water to help ships navigate between Rock Island and St. Martins Island.