Village History

There are many conflicting stories about the name Egg Harbor.  Some say it was named after a nest of eggs found on the shore by Door County's first settler.  Others say it received its name because seagulls nested along the shore and one could gather a basket of eggs from their nests.


A more appealing story is told in the Door County Advocate of April 26, 1862. The story indicates that three or four Mackinac boats left Green Bay to deliver furs to the trading post on Mackinac Island.  The boats stopped at the yet unnamed harbor to rest for the night.  While rowing ashore there was a race to see who would reach the shore first.  Food from the mess baskets was thrown at the leading boat and food quickly returned.  First, hard tack was the missile of choice, but soon eggs flew through the air.  When the boats reached the shore, the battle continued until the eggs were gone.  Everyone enjoyed the fun and the story of the battle which was often repeated by the voyagers.  The harbor was then identified as Egg Harbor.


Egg Harbor was the tenth organized town in Door County and was established on July 9, 1861.  A portion of the town organized its own government and boundaries and incorporated as a separate governmental unit in August, 1964.  The incorporated area is today known as the Village of Egg Harbor.


The first settlers in Egg Harbor were Jacob and Levi Thorp who purchased land and began lumbering operations.  Their efforts included building a pier to ship their product.  Levi eventually bought Jacob out and branched the operation to include farming and orchards.  He built the impressive Cupola House in 1871.  Ownership subsequently moved to C.A. Speaker and then to the Cady family.  The Cupola House is one of the Village landmarks located on Highway 42 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


French Canadian families began arriving around 1865.  Charles and Delia LaRouche played an important part in organizing the first Catholic Church.


John Bertschinger, a Swiss, came to Egg Harbor in 1904.  He bought the Kewaunee House at the corner of what is now Highway 42 and County G.  He enlarged, remodeled and added a dining room to the facility which he named the "Harbor Inn".  In 1912 he sold the Harbor Inn to try other ventures in lumbering, fruit and dairy farming.  He sold the Harbor Inn to Murphy Moore.  "Murphy's" was a popular dinner stop for many years.  The building is now a drinking and eating establishment known as "Shipwrecked".  John Bertschinger eventually went back to the hospitality business and with his brother Paul built the Alpine Resort which opened in 1922.  Orin Glidden developed the first 9-hole golf course adjoining the resort and called it the Alpine Golf Course.  Financial difficulties forced him to sell the course and the Bertschingers added it to the resort in 1926.  The Alpine remains one of the oldest resorts in the area and is still owned by the Bertschinger Family.


Jerry LeMere's saloon and dance hall was located where Casey's Bar and Restaurant now stands.  The LeMere's came from Canada and purchased the land in 1865.


Another early business was a saloon-hotel built by Canadian Antone La Plant.  The building burned, and was rebuilt as a stagecoach stop called the Concord Hotel.  Today it is called Mojo Rosa's.


The first doctor in the area, Dr. David Graham, arrived in 1858.  He was an untrained medical man.  After 16 years he was joined by a young doctor, Horace Eames, who was a graduate of the medical school of Valparaiso University in Indiana.


"Doc" Eames remained in the Egg Harbor community for the rest of his life.  Besides medicine, he farmed and was well known for his large orchards of cherries and apples.  He was also trained as a chemist and provided prescriptions for his patients.  He made home visits with his horse and buggy or sleigh in every kind of weather.  His home on County E has been moved to the Cupola House lot.


Early residents of the area managed small businesses.  Harbor View Park was the site of a grocery store built in 1910 by Jim and Rose Wilson.  Tom Carmody's tavern was the site of many dances in the early years.  The facility became Lena's Sip and Chat and is now the home of John Henry's Restaurant.  Woldt's Hall was also a popular spot for dances and basketball in the 1920's.


Two churches were established in the area's early development.  St. John the Baptist Catholic Church was founded in 1876. The church was located on the corner of Hillside Road and Highway 42.  Early in the new century some parishioners wanted to build a new church at a different location.  The controversy ended with the gift of land from Charles and Delia LaRouche in 1901, and the new church was built on Highway 42 and School Road in 1909.  Calvary United Methodist Church was organized in 1912 as the Egg Harbor Union Society.  The early stone church was completed in 1924.  The building is used for special events.  A larger church was built and dedicated in 1965.  Both are near the intersection of County E and Highway 42.


The decades of the 1950's and 60's were a time of growth in business and building.  The Village included a drugstore, grocery store, saloons, restaurants, a hardware store, a thriving feed mill, car dealership, gas station/garage and a two-room school on the border.  However, as the community changed, the make-up of the Village also changed.  More residents became seasonal and businesses began to adjust by providing "summer only" stores and shops.  The school eventually joined others in the county and consolidated into the Gibraltar Area School District.


The Egg Harbor Fire Department is a cooperative venture of the town and the Village of Egg Harbor.  It was established in the early 1930's with Lee Adams as the first fire chief.  First Responders were initially trained in 1979-80 and remain some of the best in Door County.


The Egg Harbor Women's Club lobbied successfully to provide a library in the Village.  Their gift of furniture and shelving helped to establish the Egg Harbor Branch of the Door County Library in 1969.  The library was first located in one of the rooms in the Granary Shops complex.  The building was eventually sold and the library moved in the old stone church for several months until it moved to its new location in the community center.


The need for a new post office, library space, Village office and community meeting room sparked a fund drive in 1984.  Funds were donated by many individuals.  The Bertschinger family kicked off the fund drive with a gift of $75,000 in memory of their father, and the Paul J. Bertschinger Community Center was completed in June, 1985.


Traditions grew quickly in the Village.  The Pumpkin Patch celebration first began in October, 1984.  Blossoms throughout the Village have made it a delight to visit in the spring and the first Blossom Festival was held in 1993.  In winter, the Village displays holiday decorations and has now developed Holly Days.


One Village tradition began with the Egg Harbor Women's Club.  The women decided that a village with the name Egg Harbor should have an Easter egg hunt.  The first Easter egg hunt was held in 1978.  That tradition continues today, and the egg hunt is held in Harbor View Park for all area children on the Saturday morning before Easter Sunday.


The July 4th parade was a Village tradition in the 1920's and continued until World War II.  Then, for a time, there was no parade.  Local residents who often gathered at Bob Sawyer's Bar revived the July 4th parade in 1968.  Each year since that time, the parade is held in the afternoon on July 4th.  Another local tradition is the New Year's Day parade.  In 1976, the same group talked about the Rose Bowl Parade and decided to host their own parade in Egg Harbor. At 1:00 the next day, January 1, 1976, a horse and rider paraded down Highway 42.  The next year, several other unofficial participants joined in.  Each year thereafter, the parade continued. At 1:00 P.M. on New Year's Day, the parade lines up at the south end of the Village and marches.  There is no formal registration required and no advertising of the event; everyone arrives and there's a parade.



Resources for this history are…

Thomas, Bruce.  Door County: Wisconsin's peninsular jewel…Printed by Sells Printing Company, New Berlin, WI 1953.

Door County Advocate, April 26, 1862, June 14, 1939, July, 1940.

Martin, Charles I.  History of Door County, Wisconsin.  Expositor Job Print, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, 1881.

Lotz, Marvin.  Discovering Door County's Past…Holly House, Fish Creek, Wisconsin, 1994.

Egg Harbor Village Records.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1976-1986 brochure.

Egg Harbor Women's Club minutes.