Located in the Township of Clay Banks in Southern Door County, Vignes was a Norwegian community which gave the school its name. Originally built by its residents in the 1890’s, about a dozen years later, the school was moved 1/2 mile north from its original site to County OO and Shiloh Road. Vignes School was originally called “Western School”, which was located in District Three and served grades first through eighth. Built at the crossroads, the area consisted of a church, cheese factory, and general store. The school, as a cornerstone of the community, was an important gathering place; hosting concerts, plays, holiday programs, graduation ceremonies, and later Town Hall meetings until the early 1990s.
By the 1960s, the State of Wisconsin was consolidating the smaller school districts into the larger units and students started attending Southern Door County School District in the early 1970s. Later use of the building as the Clay Banks Town Hall continued until it was slated for demolition around 1994. Local Clay Banks citizens and Door County Historical Society president Mitch Mackey proposed the building be acquired by DCHS and restored. The schoolhouse roof was removed to avoid power lines and the building was relocated to leased property at The Crossroads of Big Creek.
Today, the Vignes Schoolhouse stands as a testimony to the dedication of Door County’s pioneers who supported education and encouraged learning.
Settlers in Door County clustered with other people of the same language, culture, and religion, building a community to meet their needs. The immigrants almost immediately built a church–first log and later a frame building–so that their children would learn and keep the traditions, morals, and faith in God that they had known in Europe. Seeking a pastor who could use their familiar language and who could offer the sacraments, they came with joy to celebrate baptisms, weddings, harvest festivals, and church holy days in addition to gathering to grieve the many misfortunes and losses that accompanied this hard pioneer life.
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. The altar and pastor’s chair are copies of originals built by Pastor Iverson recreated by Dr. Ted Attril. The organ is an original and on loan from the Ephraim Foundation. The Moravian Star, the Bethlehem Star, points people to Christ.
Although Door County histories emphasize the arrival of the lumbermen and fishermen, the farmers were greater in total number.
Historically, wheat was an important crop in Door County. Long before dairy farming and fruit growing became significant industries, wheat and peas were major cash crops as well as oats and barley that could be stored long term to feed their livestock. Ground into flour, the pioneer women valued wheat in their kitchens were bread was a staple in every meal.
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 was typical of similar Norwegian-style storage buildings. Stranding on posts sunk into the grounds, this building is an example of the transition form log buildings with cedar shingles to wood plank siding and features roll roofing. The granary, though Norwegian in design, is a modern-era building. The lean-to on the sides was easily added and provided protection from the weather for livestock or storage implements.