Sturgeon Bay's Waterfront History: Sawmills and Ice Harvesting

© Photographed May 28, 2015
Erected 2007 by City of Sturgeon Bay and
Wisconsin Coastal Management Program
Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin
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Sturgeon Bay's Waterfront History
Sawmills and Ice Harvesting
The lumber business was the first industrial activity on the waterfront and remained vital to the local economy until the 1890's. Three sawmills were established during the 1850's by Lyman Bradley & David Crandall, D.J. Burtis, and Robert Graham in the north, central and south part of the Sturgeon Bay waterfront, respectively. These mills went in and out of business and changed ownership frequently. Locally, they were known as the Lower (or Island) Mill, Middle Mill, and Upper Mill. The Upper Mill was erected by Graham in 1855 near this spot. It eventually became the Reynolds Lumber Company and closed for good in 1894.
The community of Sturgeon Bay grew up around these sawmills and by the time the lumber era passed, the city had firmly established itself as the seat of commerce within Door County. As the extensive pine forests surrounding Sturgeon Bay were cut, the waterfront shaped by these sawmills as docks and wharfs were constructed and areas filled and dredged. Logs were floated or hauled to the mills and finished product was loaded onto sailing vessels and shipped to places such as Milwaukee and Chicago.
Ice harvesting was also an important industry beginning in the 1870's. By the 1880's six companies had immense storehouses in and near Sturgeon Bay and employed several hundred men. The ice was stored and covered in sawdust from the mills until it could be shipped by schooner in the spring. Competition from other places caused the ice industry to decline considerably by the 1890's, but it continued on a smaller scale serving the local community until the 1930's.
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.

Scofield & Company Sawmill, shown in 1878. It was known as the Middle Mill and was located on the shore just north of Kentucky Street. Icehouses are visible in the center background of the photo.
1884 photo of mill workers at the L.M. Washburn Lumber Company. Immigrants provided a large percentage of the workforce at the various mills.
Original Sawmills
Approximate location of the sawmills that
were established in Sturgeon Bay.
Original street names are shown with
current names in parentheses.

One of several ice harvesting companies operating in and around Sturgeon Bay, the George H. Hammond Ice Company had 15 large icehouses located on the city's west side near the foot of present day Lansing Avenue.

The marker is visible on the left.

The pathway to the marker (visible in the distance in the center).

The marker is located at Graham Park.

Plenty of parking to access the marker location.

The marker is located at the Historic Downtown Waterfront
of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

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