Door County is composed of 19 communities, each with a unique look and feel that is well worth exploring.

As you enter the southern townships of the peninsula, the most dominant influence on the architecture comes from the Belgian settlers who, after enduring significant loss of life and property to the Peshtigo Fire of October 8th, 1871, started building their homes out of brick to withstand any future threat of fire.

The growth of Sturgeon Bay in the late 1800's is evidenced by the ornate and colorful detailing of its Victorian Era homes and business districts. Much of this opulence was driven by the sale of stone and lumber to Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire, also on October 8th, 1871.

Built in 1931, the Michigan Street Bridge is the only example of an overhead-truss, Scherzer-type, double-leaf, rolling-lift bascule in Wisconsin. The inventory form states, "that overhead truss construction was reserved for movable spans subjected to great stresses. Thus, this method was appropriate for the windy Sturgeon Bay site, the bridge's heavy vehicular use and the required 140-foot clear span crossing. This span was the largest in Wisconsin at the time of construction." The other area of historic merit lies in the design of the bascule span itself. It was designed by the Chicago firm of Keller and Harrington, both from the former Scherzer Company, specialists in movable bridges. The Michigan Street Bridge is one of two bridges to connect the east and west sides of Sturgeon Bay along the city's historic downtown waterfront.

In the late 1800's much of the land was cleared and farms started springing up across the County. Although many of these white clapboard homes appear to be smaller than their counterparts throughout the state, they often housed two or three generations and were often constructed from cured cedar poles salvaged from the Peshtigo fire.

Ephraim was one of the first major settlements on the peninsula and was founded in 1853 by the Reverend Andreas Iverson as a Moravian religious community. Iverson's home was built in a traditional Norwegian style with a barn for the animals on the lowest level and living quarters above. In keeping with their beliefs, the local architecture was kept simple, useful and often painted white. Additional Norwegian influences can be found in the design of the Village Hall and in the local Svalhus-designed homes, noted by the extended second story which overhangs the front porch to shelter windows from the heat of the high summer sun. The white steeples of the Moravian Church and the Lutheran Church are the landmarks of the village as seen from Eagle Harbor.

Throughout the northern townships and villages of the peninsula and Washington Island, keep an eye out for architectural details that reflect the influences of its Nordic settlers. Look for scribe-fitted log, scaled roofs, decorative carving, rosemaling and mythological serpents scrolling across rooftops.

National Register of Historic Places in Door County, WI