Sturgeon Bay's Waterfront History: Transportation and Tourism

© Photographed May 28, 2015
Erected 2007 by City of Sturgeon Bay and
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin
44.830766,-87.37686
Google Map

Sturgeon Bay's Waterfront History
Transportation and Tourism
The water dividing the young community of Sturgeon Bay provided its most important asset. It was the passageway, before the benefit of decent roads, for all manner of commerce. In the earliest days of the new settlement, lumber filled schooners set said for larger cities. As early as 1862 side wheel steamers occasionally stopped and delivered much needed supplies. More importantly, these ships provided news of the outside world.

The Good rich Line owned the docking space at this spot and for many years the dock was referred to as the Goodrich Dock. This line, which operated from 1955 to the 1930's, offered freight and passenger service steamers including the Alpina, a side-wheel steamer and the Carolina, a twin screw steamer. Eventually, the side-wheelers were replaced with propeller type vessels that were better able to handle the ice bound harbors that existed on the Door Peninsula. These ships were frequent sights in Sturgeon Bay and offered $6.00 excursions from Chicago to Sturgeon Bay.

Hart Transportation also operated in Sturgeon Bay waters until the 1920's. Its boats, the Welcome, the Moore and the Bon Ami, made stops at Sturgeon Bay and other Door Peninsula ports. The passenger steamers from both lines fed Sturgeon Bay's growing resort and hotel business. Passengers would disembark and travel by foot, small boats, or horse-drawn liveries to their chosen lodging.

Cruise lines made their appearance in around 1913. Operated by the Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Transit Company, the North American and South American offered seven day cruises with deluxe accommodations. The ships provided promenade, sun and observation decks as well as sports and entertainment facilities.

The City of Sturgeon Bay purchased the Goodrich Docks in 1933 and it became known as the East Side Dock. The dock was renovated in 2003 and continues to serve Great Lakes cruise ships to this day.
The marker is located on Sturgeon Bay's Waterfront at Graham Park, and is accessible from the westernmost end of Pennsylvania Street, west of its intersection with Qunicy Street, at or near 10 Pennsylvania Street, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin 54235.

NOTE: Graham Park consists of 1.2 acres between Oregon Street Bridge and Pennsylvania Street and was the former PBI Shipyard site. The creation of the waterfront park is a key part of the redevelopment efforts for the former shipyard area.

Looking east from the marker location.

This map shows the location of the docking facilities of the principal water transportation companies serving Sturgeon Bay during the late 1800's and early 1900's. The Hart Line operated from the east side of the foot of the city's original bridge until the 1920's, while the Goodrich Transportation Company operated from what is now the municipally-owned East Side Dock until the 1930's.
The Goodrich Dock was a favorite fishing spot during the depression.
A short walk from the docks, the Hotel Vendome was located at the corner of Third Avenue and Pennsylvania Street and served tourists from 1880 to 1899 when it burned down. This was one of the many hotels and resorts that catered to the fledgling tourist trade.
North American moored at the Goodrich Dock (East Side Dock). Cruise ships of the Chicago, Duluth and Georgian Bay Transit Company held as many as 525 passengers and 150 crew members.
Sample menu from the South American.
The Rouse Simmons, known as the Christmas Tree Ship, passes through Sturgeon Bay. The ship went down off Kewaunee in November, 1912 while carrying a load of Christmas trees from northern Michigan to Chicago. All 16 aboard were lost including two women.
With the Oregon Street bridge visible in the background.

The marker is located at Graham Park.

Plenty of parking to access the marker.

The marker is located at Sturgeon Bay's Historic Downtown Waterfront.

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