Skip to content

Ask a Local: Barb Englebert Chisholm Volunteer Historian, Belgian Heritage Center


Families moved to Door County from Belgium in the 1850s with the promise of cheap land, fertile soil, religious freedom, and “mild” winters. Barb Englebert Chisholm’s great-grandparents were part of the migration, crossing the Atlantic in 1856. The Belgian Heritage Center honors the sacrifices and successes of these ancestors and strives to preserve their traditional Walloon language.

As a fifth-generation Belgian-American, Chisholm became the center’s historian after retiring as an ER nurse. She also trains volunteer docents and helps organize community events. At the Great Fire Remembrance, Chisholm reenacts her great-grandmother’s story of survival when she hid in a hand-dug well to escape the firestorm of 1871, one of the worst natural disasters in US history. She’s also involved with Kermiss, a multigenerational fall celebration with music, dancing, and traditional food.

We asked Barb about her experiences in Door County. She shares the places she likes to go and the things she likes to do to inspire you on your vacation to the peninsula. 

Q. What traditional Belgian foods do you enjoy?

A. I like them all! I make Belgian pies (a time-consuming process), consisting of raised dough, seasonal fall fruit, and a cheesecake topping. I recommend the Belgian Delight restaurant to museumgoers for their good trippe (pork sausage with cabbage and nutmeg).

Q. What is your favorite Door County gift shop? 
A.  The Blue Dolphin House has neat home decor. I also like exploring the grounds and wooden walkways of Edgewood Orchard Galleries, which has a little bit of everything—jewelry, pottery, and sculpture.

Q. What are your go-to supper clubs?
A. The Nightingale Supper Club has excellent prime rib, and The Mill Supper Club offers family-style dining on Sunday nights. They both have wonderful Friday fish frys. 

Q. Where do you enjoy outdoor dining?
A.  Kitty O’Reilly’s Irish Pub has a lovely patio and is close to the marina in Sturgeon Bay.

Q. Where do you like to go for dinner?
A. My girlfriend and I recently enjoyed the Mezzanine in Egg Harbor before a concert at the Southern Door Community Auditorium. I had a wonderful panko-crusted pork chop and Pre-Prohibition whiskey sour, which came with a fun egg-white froth on top.

Q. What do you do in your free time?
A. I like to read. A few years ago, an author named Kathleen Ernst was inspired by our Belgian settlement and wrote a murder mystery called "The Lacemaker’s Secret." I was able to give her a tour of the Brussels, Wisconsin, area and the surrounding countryside.

Sign up today!

Visit Door County virtually with monthly newsletter updates. Each issue is jam-packed with vacation ideas, special offers, recipes, festivals, events, and more.

The Official Door County Newsletter

View All Articles