The Door County Historical Society’s interpretive sites, Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and the Heritage Village at Big Creek are open for the season. For the first time in two years, due to the generous gift of time by society volunteers, the Hanson Norwegian Homestead will be open on Saturdays from 10:00 until noon through October 14th.
In 1853 Bertha & Hans Hanson family came from Hurum, a seaport on the southeast coast of Norway. When Hans and Bertha were married, he was listed on the marriage license as a ship carpenter. For a year or two, they settled in Chicago. Hans heard of ship building in Door County, worked at that for a year, and then bought this 80-acre farm in 1857 for $250. In 1881, the farm was recorded to be 225 acres extending northward towards what we now know as Michigan Street and eastward toward Lake Michigan.
Hans and Bertha Hanson selected this property because of its ideal location by a creek (Big Creek) and bay (Sturgeon Bay before it was connected to Lake Michigan via the canal). The property features a freshwater spring which was used as the source of fresh water during its entire history. They built their home adjacent to an Indian portage overland from the Bay to Lake Michigan. Their small boat could come up Big Creek to land just south of the house; they fished for whitefish, chubs, northern, sturgeon and suckers. The land was only a mile from an unnamed village, Sturgeon Bay.
In constructing his home, Hans used the skills he had perfected in ship building, Norwegian style. Logs were fitted perfectly, the lower one with a rounded top, and the upper one with a convex bottom. This is one of only three known homes in North America that used this style; some of the Norwegian techniques date to the 1400s.
The Hanson family heirs continued to live in this homestead until 1918, when they relocated to Dagget, Michigan. Subsequent owners were Adrian and Mary DeSmidt, Moulton B. Groff, Guern Weal Farm Corp., and most recently the Donald and Margaret Greaves family. Due to the care of these prior owners the property remained much the way it was in the days of Hans and Bertha Hanson, with its house, barn, and summer kitchen/laundry. Then, due to the generosity of the Fred J. Peterson Foundation, the Hanson descendants, and the Door County community, the home became part of the Heritage Village at Big Creek, undergoing many years of restoration.
Little did Bertha and Hans Hanson know that 150 years later their property would become the Hanson Norwegian Homestead. A visit to this Norwegian heritage site is included in the $6 adult admission to the Heritage Village at Big Creek. Admission may be purchased at the Heritage Village, 2041 Michigan Street, Sturgeon Bay, or at the Homestead located on the north side of Utah Street, the first driveway on the left past the creek.
Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is open daily for tours from 10:00 am until 3:30. The guided tour features the story of lighthouse keeper William Duclon. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse is located in Peninsula State Park on Shore Road. Guided tour fee for adults is $8, student (13-17) fee is $5, and youth (6-12) fee is $3. A daily park permit is necessary.
The Heritage Village at Big Creek tour begins at the Greene General Store; the tour includes the store, Vignes School, Village Chapel, Blacksmith Shop in the Petersen Granary, Kohl’s Fish House, Outhouse, Warren House, Schopf House, Madden Tool Museum (currently under construction), and on Saturdays from 10-noon the Hanson Norwegian Homestead (one-half mile down the path or by car). The Heritage Village at Big Creek is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10-3:00; adult admission is $6. Due to the generosity of members and guest donors, there is no admission fee for children. The Hanson Norwegian Homestead is open Saturdays 10-noon and may also be available for viewing at other times by advance reservation. For further information, contact the Door County Historical Society at (920) 421-2332, visit www.DoorCountyHistoricalSoicety.org or email Director.DCHistoricalSociety@gmail.com
The Door County Historical Society is a membership organization dedicated to keeping history alive for future generations through the collection, preservation and sharing of the heritage of Door County. The Society operates two interpretive sites: Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park and the Heritage Village at Big Creek in Sturgeon Bay.