The Door County Historical Society is creating and preserving the Heritage Village at Big Creek to provide experience-based activities for learners of all ages to grow in appreciation of the people of 1880-1910 who developed their community in a rural crossroads setting.
The Heritage Village at Big Creek is located at 2041 Michigan Street (County Highway TT) in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (just beyond the highway bypass, east of Sturgeon Bay). View a map and directions to the Heritage Village at Big Creek.
The Heritage Village at Big Creek serves as a memorial to the people who lived in rural Door County from 1880 to 1910. Farmers and their families were isolated and lonely, but, by traveling five or six miles by horse or foot, they could find other people at a village. They could find community.
At the April 1991 meeting of the Door County Historical Society, a group of eighth grade students from T.J. Walker Middle School presented a program describing their experiences of pioneer living at Old Victoria, a restored mining town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The students said the experience was “life changing.”
The presentation prompted some members of DCHS to dream of a nearby place where Door County history could be brought to life. The venue couldn’t be a mining town like in the U.P., but perhaps it could showcase a rural community.
About the same time, the Sturgeon Bay Education Foundation was exploring the idea of creating a school forest. The foundation purchased 53 acres at a crossroads near the intersection of Highway 42-57 and Michigan Street just east of Sturgeon Bay, and The Crossroads at Big Creek was born. The foundation agreed to lease a corner of its land to the Door County Historical Society for The Heritage Village at Big Creek.
At the initial planning meetings, members of DCHS took on the daunting task of establishing a truly historic village. To prevent the problem of destroying history while trying to preserve it, DCHS asked several professional researchers to supervise an archeological survey of the site. Fourth grade, middle school, and high school students helped out; they dug, “shook” and analyzed every shovelful of soil.
After the archeological team determined that the site lacked significant artifacts or evidence of occupation, the DCHS began to create a village, to depict rural life in the period between 1880 and 1910.
Where your Heritage Village tour begins! Named for renowned store owners from Sturgeon Bay, the Greene Store offers guidebooks for visitors and offers candy, displays, Door County goodies, and more!
The artifacts and items in the store were donated by hundreds of individuals to furnish the store as it would have been in the early 1900s. Included in these artifacts are a working phonograph and an adding machine!
In 2001, the Door County Historical Society celebrated its 75th anniversary with the construction of the Village Chapel, a 3/4 model of the first Protestant church building in Door County, the Ephraim Moravian Church, which was founded by Pastor Andrew M. Iverson in 1853.
For smaller events and weddings, our chapel is often used today. Visit our “Contact Us” page to learn more.
Built in the 1890s, in the town of Vignes, the school was originally called “Western School”, and served grades first through eighth. The schoolhouse was an important gathering place; hosting concerts, plays, holiday programs, graduation ceremonies, and later Town Hall meetings until the early 1990s. Before it could be demolished due to school district expansion, the Door County Historical Society saved the little schoolhouse and brought it to Heritage Village.
The exterior was restored in 2020.
Built in 1905, the Petersen Granary was originally located on the family’s farm on Lily Bay Road. Utilized as a storage facility for a variety of livestock feed, the granary’s design was typical for Norwegian-style storage buildings. The granary, though Norwegian in design, is a modern-era building.
Today, it features our blacksmith shop on Thursdays and a “guess the grain!” exhibit.
The Kohl Fish House was originally located in Jacksonport and is typical of many that were built along the harbors to provide docking for the fish boats. In 1993, Ed Kohl’s daughters donated the Kohl Fish House to the Door County Historical Society and it become the start of the Heritage Village.
Built in 1877, in the town of Clay Bank, this building was called home by the Warren family. Family members donated the house and many of its furnishings, and in 2004, the DCHS move the home to the Heritage Village.
This home was built in Jacksonport around 1882 by the Lautenbach family, immigrants from Germany. In 2006, the DCHS move the home to the Heritage Village. It was named in honor of Orville Schopf, who was instrumental in helping to fulfill the mission of the historical society.
Completed in 2018, the Madden Tool Museum was built out of a reconstructed barn. It includes tool displays and an area for demonstrations. The DCHS has been told that it is a one-of-a-kind museum, unlike any other in the State of Wisconsin.
This building is available for demos and exploration on Thursdays.