September 27, 2015 Program  

During the Door County Historical Society’s Sunday, September 27 program at the Heritage Village at Big Creek, Captain Bob Desh will explore the creation of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal.

The Ship Canal was an 18-year long and arduous process beginning with a Wisconsin charter in 1864, the first dirt scooped in 1872, the meeting of Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan waters in 1878, then open to light and low draft vessels in 1880 and completion in 1882. The seven-mile long canal was created in part by dredging Sturgeon Bay and the balance by digging the last 1.3 miles.

Desh will demonstrate that the digging of the Canal is undoubtedly one of the most important events in the history of the Door Peninsula. The brainchild of Joseph Harris, Sr., the historic Ship Canal has shaped the economy and personality of the region since its completion in the 1880s. In addition to economic growth, the Canal made an indelible mark on maritime history in that it spawned lighthouses, lifesaving stations and the Peninsula’s remarkable shipbuilding heritage. Its influence is still felt by Door County residents and visitors alike.

Bob is the former Executive Director of the Door County Maritime Museum. Prior to joining the museum, Bob served for over 36 years with the United States Coast Guard. During his very diverse military career, he served on five Coast Guard cutters and in a wide variety of shore billets including Commanding Officer of the International Ice Patrol and Director of the Leadership Development Center at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. A long-time maritime and Coast Guard history buff, Bob is the former Executive Director of the Foundation for Coast Guard History and presently serves on the organization’s Board of Regents.

The program will be held on Sunday, September 27 at 2:00 pm in the Collins Center, at 2041 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay. This program does not have an admission fee, but a free will offering will be taken to support the Heritage Village at Big Creek. The Heritage Village is open for tours at 1:30 pm and immediately after the program; Adult Village admission is $5. For further information, contact the Door County Historical Society at (920) 421-2332 or email

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.

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