By Tom Jordan
Periodically, author and photographer Tom Jordan will share with us selections from what he believes are truly Secret Treasures of Door County. You can find some of his work in two of his books, Secret Treasures of Door County and Secret Treasures of Sturgeon Bay. Both books are available with all proceeds benefitting the Door County Community Foundation.
It still amazes me when I talk to people up the Peninsula and they tell me they seldom go to Sturgeon Bay. In fact, so many of the tourists consistently take the big bridge north and bypass the short detour that would lead them to some of the best scenes the entire county has to offer; especially along the waterfront.
The Steel Bridge itself is worth the trip. It first opened on July 4, 1931, and spans about a quarter mile. Because of the need for constant repairs, it was earmarked for demolition in the early 2000’s. But a group of dedicated locals called Citizens for Our Bridge banded (literally banded) together. Their efforts were successful. It was the genesis for the Steel Bridge Songfest that began in 2004 and continues to bring musicians from all over the country each summer.
At the bottom of the bridge, along with the southern wall, you’ll find a bevy of tugboats, including the John Purves. Built in 1919 as an ocean-going tug and was gifted to the Sturgeon Bay Maritime Museum in 2003. You can enjoy an all-access forty-minute guided tour.
One of the most accurate and predictable sounds you’ll hear eleven times a day in Sturgeon Bay is the whistle at Bay Shipbuilding Company. It signals the beginning of a shift, the start of a break or the end of the day. This is where most of the large lake vessels come in the winter for repair. At any time you can see these mammoths right from the road. One weekend each year they open their doors to the public for a closer look.
And every now and then we are blessed with the arrival of the Tall Ships. They’ll dock all along the waterfront. This is something that you have to be here to see.
And let’s not forget the Coast Guard and the incredible sight of the lighthouse, Big Red, just up the canal.
In the summer the sails are full and in the winter the ice sparkles in the sunshine with that beautiful steel bridge in the background.
The Waterfront of Sturgeon Bay. One of my favorite “Secret Treasures” of Door County.