It’s safe to say that only one thing hasn’t changed about Sister Bay in its 100-year history is the view.
Trails and roads were carved through the forest, some to disappear, some to grow larger and more prominent through time. Homes and businesses were built, burned to the ground, rebuilt, moved to new locations, preserved in the family, sold to other people. Families came and went, churches and schools changed personality, much of the land moved to agriculture and then to recreation.
Through it all, the waters of Green Bay lapped at the village’s western shore, and the landscape’s peaks and valleys afforded either a stupendous view from above or access to beaches that were sometimes sun-drenched, sometimes encased in ice or buffeted by winds and waves.
People worked and played along that shore, then as well as now. But a lot of things happened in the intervening time.
The First 50 Years: 1912-1962
Sister Bay, which was also called Big Sister Bay at one time, was named in connection with the Sister Islands that flank the harbor opening to Sister Bay. It was initially a part of the Township of Liberty Grove, which was founded in 1859. As the northern part of the county grew, other settlements rose and fell, but Sister Bay continued to progress.
It was in April, 1912, that the citizens petitioned for the right to become an incorporated village. The $14 filing fee was paid for by Henry Graass. The first village meeting (election) was held April 16, 1912. It was then it was decided that the assessor would get $10 per year, the clerk $25, the treasure, $20. The village was also to raise $200 for general funds.
Various reasons for the decision to incorporate have been suggested. In the early 1900s the town of Liberty Grove had voted to be dry. Taxes were increasing in the town as roads were being built and developed continually; however, they believed that little consideration was given to the roads in the immediate area of the village. These details evidently had much influence on the decision to incorporate.
A movement was instigated by Matt Roeser after his conference with Graass on securing funds for road improvements. He was told that if they incorporated, they could handle their own funds and take care of the needed improvements.
Other towns along the lakefront had sprung up and fallen, boats had begun using the canal at Sturgeon Bay which provided a shorter and quicker route across the water, and there was a need for log refueling when the boats reached the bay side. Sister Bay harbor provided one of the largest and deepest. It also maintained the docks on both sides of the harbor and the wood supply was plentiful. Sunday excursions back and forth to Marinette and Menominee were also becoming popular. All of these things contributed to the decision to become a village.
If 1912 was an important year, it was also a tragic year. It brought a drought that caused crop failures for the farmers, cattle and livestock losses, a hail storm that did much damage, and a grasshopper plague that destroyed whatever was left growing.
Worse than that was the 1912 fire that nearly destroyed the entire village. Four store buildings, a large hotel and a home were wiped out, all right around the intersection of today’s Bay Shore Drive and Maple. High winds caused the flames to spread rapidly, despite the efforts of a bucket brigade. It was a setback, but the villagers rebuilt and continued on. The villagers of Sister Bay fought other fires in succeeding years, but always managed to recover and go on.
Sister Bay may have become a village in 1912, but it didn’t spring full-blown out of nothing. That early village sprouted from roots planted from the time of the first settlers who immigrated here in 1857 and began putting up the homes and businesses that were the forerunners of the ones here today.
The first settlement was formed at Little Sister Bay at Pebble Beach, which is now private. Ole Lindem bought 40 acres of land there from his older brother in 1854. He put up a house and a barn, and had a blacksmith shop. Although many of the children in succeeding generations moved to permanent homes elsewhere, they continued to come back for summer visits. Jacob Linden bought the property from Ole’s wife Margarete, and when he died, his will stipulated that the land was to remain in the family. Jacob also provided the land for today’s Little Sister Bay Cemetery. The old, original home is owned by Maxine Lindem, and nine other cottages on the property are owned by the far-flung members of the clan who still show up regularly to celebrate together. The youngest children are the eighth generation of Lindems to use the property.
Back in the beginning, the cleared Pebble Beach area was a stopping place for ships that sailed the bay, since a log supply was always available. The cribs of the old docks are now gone, but remnants were still visible until the 1950s.
One of the first permanent settlers in Sister Bay was Ingebret Torgerson, who came into the harbor with a small boat. After surveying the shoreline he decided to settle on the hill where Country House Resort is today on Sunnyside Road. He built a meager shack on the flat and claimed that property as his farm. When his supplies ran short he learned from Jasper Morefield, a Norwegian settler at Ephraim, that the trail to Sturgeon Bay was only a foot path, and that the distance was over 40 miles. So, Torgerson took a skiff and paddled to Green Bay, following the shoreline, to purchase supplies at Hamilton Arndt’s Trading Post. The round trip took three weeks.
The property was maintained as a home and farm until, in 1907, it was bought by Dr. Sebald Fichtner who called it “Forest Idyll.” In 1946 it was sold to the Erwin Bastian and the home was remodeled into the Country House Hotel. In 1953, “because of competition in the hotel and motel business,” according to a story in the “Door County Advocate,” it was completely remodeled again and became the Country House rest home/nursing home. He eventually closed the nursing home, rather than spend $20,000 to install the mandated sprinkler system. Today, remodeled and enlarged, it is owned by the Zaug family, and has once again become an extensive resort, still known as Country House.
The name Roeser appears over and over again in Sister Bay’s history, but has disappeared from today’s phone book—although descendants, such as the Champeau family, are still around. Andre Roeser, a miller, arrived in 1877 with his wife Leone as one of the earliest families to settle here. He had spent the previous nine years in other parts of Door County. In 1878, the Roesers purchased the lumber mill, flour mill and well over a mile-and-a-half of shoreline with adjoining acreage from Thomas Dimond, who had built a pier at the head of Sister Bay. The business brought to Sister Bay because of the new grist and saw mills was largely responsible for Sister Bay’s rising importance in the northern end of the county.
Andre, one of a family of 16 children, was an immense man, weighing over 235 pounds. After 1879, when the passenger and freight boats first began to stop at Sister bay, so much of the social and work-a-day activities centered in and around his saw mill and dock it was often said, “He knew everyone and everyone knew him.”
The early villagers depended on provisions and freight brought in by the boats that docked at the mill. Also, as horses were so scarce and the primitive bark roadways were so limited, these boats provided much of the transportation. Many times, people rode the boats just for pleasure, paying 10 cents to go from Sister Bay to Ephraim.
Leone Roeser was on constant call as one of the village midwives. Between her and her husband, their missions of untold help and charity contributed greatly in the struggles of the early pioneer settlers of Sister Bay. Leone and Andre had nine children, two of whom drowned on their very own dock. Their sons worked in the saw mill and flour mill business with their father and carried on after his death in 1915. Adolph retired in 1941, after 51 years in business.
The first post office in the tiny village was tended to by Margaret (Maggie) Roeser. The weekly service was conducted out of the basement of the Roeser homestead. Jim Hanson had the first general store in 1880. He later moved to Ephraim after selling out to Wenzel Bunda in 1887. Both of their stores were maintained in the basement of the Roeser home. Bunda’s Department Store was one of those that burned in 1912 and was still a going concern 50 years after the village was formed. The On Deck clothing store occupies that site today. A creamery was operated by Matt Roeser in a building adjoining the home in later years. Peter L’Hote, one of the earliest hotel owners in Sister Bay, was married to Maggie Roeser.
The Roeser homestead had 15 rooms and was the center of much of the early village activity, making it a forerunner of the modern hospitality industry. Passengers from the boats lodged overnight frequently. If they stayed for a week, they paid $1.50, which included laundry. Along with the men that worked at the saw mill and the lumbermen from the woods, it was customary for many of the travelers to lodge in the Roeser home all the long winter months.
Beginning around 1879, the Roeser home was also the site of masses for the 20 Catholic families of the community. Monthly masses for the previous five years had been at the Thomas Dimond homestead, presided over by Fr. Bloom of Sturgeon Bay. For the next 20 years, masses were held every two weeks in an upstairs room of the Roeser home. Those attending sat on wooden planks and many sang hymns in German. Huge Grandpa (Andre) Roeser was the only Mass server before 1899. The home also was the site of baptisms and weddings.
The Roeser family gave to the village the land that is now Sister Bay Park, and the land for the Catholic church and Catholic cemetery. He paid some of his workers in land, and some of their descendants still live along the waterfront.
The Roeser name is also connected to Sister’s Bay’s oldest business, now known as Lampert’s lumber and hardware. It is a direct descendant of the flour mill and a sawmill that Andre Roeser had bought from Thomas Dimond. They were destroyed by fire in 1888. Andre Roeser rebuilt the mills and added a shipping business. Andre’s son Adolph added a shingle mill to the operation, which was destroyed by fire in 1907. The sawmill, shingle mill, and flour mill were rebuilt, and then lumber and building materials were added. Adolph operated the business from 1912 until 1941, when he sold to Robert and Lester Berns, who operated it as Berns Brothers Lumber Co.
The Berns brothers expanded and improved the lumber business by building new warehouses and a new office and salesroom, and in 1958 they bought another lumber company in Sturgeon Bay. Around 1977, Berns Brothers became Lampert’s, but the Berns name is still a familiar one in Sister Bay.
Back in 1865, another early settler, Gunnar Anderson, purchased land from the government without a single cent of cash. It was 108 acres of timber land and shore property. Having no cash for the deal, Anderson contracted to furnish 550 bushels of potatoes over a period of three years. On his contract a clause was inserted: “All small and rotten potatoes to be picked out and if the potatoes should fail, the deficiency is to be paid in cash at the rate of 75 cents per bushel at the time of the last payment.”
In 1918, Grant Anderson established a resort on the property called Little Sister Resort, which is still in existence today. It stayed in the Anderson family until 1973, when it was sold to Fred and Anne Luber, although Grace Anderson stayed on and baked for the new owners until 1988. Sue and Fuzzy Sunstrom are co-owners with the Lubers, and in 2001, they started a bar and grill on the premises called Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill.
Another resort with roots deep in the past, although not directly in the Sister Bay village limits, is the Liberty Park Lodge, which began in 1898 as the Liberty Park Hotel, owned by Abraham and Christina Carlson. It was actually their home to begin with, but passengers of ships passing the harbor needed a place to stay and hospitality demanded that people share what they had. It didn’t take long for it to become a business that was one of the forerunners of today’s vital tourism industry.
Eventually, the trend moved from hotels to housekeeping cottages, then to motels, and on to condominiums. However, the comfortable hotel atmosphere has been maintained around the area, too, in places like Little Sister Resort and Country House Resort.
Education in Sister Bay was a concern as far back as 1865, even though the first director could neither read nor write. That first school was across from the former Liberty Grove Town Hall, now Ecology Sports, on Hwy. The first students had to walk as far as 12 miles a day. Many of the students were full-grown and from other countries, where they had never attended school. That original log building was moved a few times, and is now home to the visitor center near where highways 42 and 57 intersect.
In 1881, a new, larger school was built where Appleport School eventually stood, at County ZZ and Old Stage Road. The third school was the Wildwood School, which was torn down when the current Liberty Grove Town Hall on Old Stage Road was built.
In 1909 Sister Bay built a two-room school on top of the hill along Hwy 42, and two more rooms were added in 1960. In 1962 there were 100 students. In 1921, a high school district was formed which meant students no longer had to go to Sturgeon Bay for high school. All students now attend school at Gibraltar Area Schools in Fish Creek, and the “school on the hill” is vacant.
In 1904, rural mail delivery service was started in Sister Bay. The post office moved from place to place, depending on who the postmaster was. When a fire station was built in 1947, the post office moved there. Today, the post office occupies all of that early building on Bay Shore Drive.
From the small population of the early fishermen, loggers and farmers, Sister Bay grew to 520 people in 1962, 50 years after the village was incorporated. After the village voted to become wet, and the liquor licenses were issued, “the hotels and saloons were well known and the language of bar, or cocktail lounge, was adopted,” according to the 50-year jubilee book.
During those first 50 years, a dance hall became the center of Saturday night life, on the corner that was the scene of 1912’s devastating fire. In 1958 it was torn down and a modern bowling alley installed. At the time of the Golden Jubilee, 200 bowlers took to the lanes four nights a week for league bowling. The Sister Bay Bowl continues to operate, and even this year received yet another facelift with a outside bar area.
Sister Bay also has churches with early roots in the community. The First Baptist Church dates back to the 1860s, which started out as Sunday School work lead by Anders Seaquist in various homes. The church was officially organized in 1877 as the Swedish Baptist Church, with the organizational meeting held in the log cabin home of Hans Gunderson, the schoolmaster from Norway. Swedish continued to be spoken for church services until 1906. The parsonage was built in 1905, and a church in 1916. It was remodeled in 1959 to include a pastor’s study and kitchen. Pews replaced chairs in 1955. At the time of Golden Jubilee the church was located on County ZZ but has since been replaced by a new building on Hwy. 42.
St. Rosalia’s Catholic Church began, as explained earlier, in the old Roeser homestead. The Roesers donated land for a proper church building. The church was enlarged or replaced more than once, and finally moved to its present location on Bay Shore Drive. Today’s Mission Grille exists in the vacated church building, and has incorporated church photos and mementos into the decor.
Another of the original church bodies is the Sister Bay Moravian Church, which was only a log building in 1896. It was connected with the Moravian Church in Ephraim until 1945 when it became a self-supporting congregation. Today the church building is located on Old Stage Road.
The former Zion Lutheran Church got its start when a group of settlers met in a schoolhouse in 1878 to talk about establishing a congregation called the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church. A church building was put up in 1879. In 1890 it was reorganized as Zion Lutheran. In 1961 it became a part of the American Lutheran Church. The congregations eventually merged with one in Ellison Bay and became Shepherd of the Bay. The former Zion Lutheran Church in Sister Bay is now the Tannenbaum Holiday Shop, at the intersection of Hwy. 42 and Water’s End Road.
At the time of the Golden Jubilee, the geographical area of the village hadn’t changed since its 1912 incorporation, but the population and the number of businesses had grown. The feeling of the village residents was confident and hopeful, based on the many successes of the past. The Jubilee booklet summed it up:
“The tourist trade has made the village grow in many respects. The stores have increased in number and expanded in size. The restaurants and eating places have sprung up all along the village main road. Various groups are in process now of naming the streets, the new residential one along with the old well-known and well-beaten ones. The shore property has afforded much opportunity for cottage, motel and permanent home building. New streets have been added and inside its original boundary, the village continues to grow.
“Beginning with a mere handful of buildings and only the (most) direly needed businesses at its birth in 1912, the list of village businesses has grown to over a hundred.
“The business lots are quite scarce. The village provided itself with the much needed village hall and library in 1941. Talk of expanding the present library facilities is now underway. The new modern lighting system will be installed in the very near future…It is sincerely hoped that this year, 1962, will long be a remembered one in the eyes of this new generation.”
“This new generation” now has another 50 years to look back on, and more changes to track.
The Second 50 Years: 1962-2012
When Sister Bay celebrated its 50-year jubilee, it had a population of 520 people, and just over 100 businesses in the community. Now, 50 years later, the population has grown to 876 and the number of businesses increased to over 140–even though the village limits remain almost exactly the same as those in 1912.
The number one reason for that growth, and the number one business in Sister Bay, are the same: tourism. It’s what brings those who come to visit, and those who come to stay. It’s what has created demand for the development of land that was once agricultural, both inside and outside the village. It’s what swells the summer population to somewhere around 2,000 people. It’s what put the goats on the roof of Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in the early 1970s.
Sister Bay and Door County have always been a destination for visitors, starting even back in the very early years when visitors were put up in private homesteads. Early hospitality also is attested to by the number of today’s motels, hotels and resort areas that have their roots in the past. However, the first 50 years was as nothing compared to the tourism explosion that occurred after 1969. The reason: A National Geographic article about Door County entitled “My Kingdom So Delicious.”
The article was deemed so important that then-Gov. Warren Knowles proclaimed March 2-8, 1969, as National Geographic Week. Although Sister Bay wasn’t specifically mentioned in the article, it shared in the deluge of tourists that descended upon Door County to see for themselves what had intrigued so auspicious a magazine. In 1969, tourism was a $100-million industry in Door County, with 1 million visitors arriving each year. By 2010, tourism spending reached $266.9 million. In 2011, it climbed to $271.2 million, with an estimated 2 million visitors.
Many of those tourists, with their changing needs and wants, helped to change the kinds of businesses that emerged as the years passed. Sister Bay’s progressive thinking—which, for instance, induced the village to install water and sewer long before anyone else—encouraged newcomers to make this village the place to visit or put down new roots.
The visitors of the first 50 years came to spend their time outdoors. They wanted cottages with the bare necessities, so that’s what became popular. Eventually, those tourists wanted televisions and telephones, so hotels and motels became popular. In more recent years, the demand has been for more comfort—whole kitchens, hot tubs, luxuries. High-end resorts and condominiums were built to fill those wants. The tourism industry became the single most important industry in Sister Bay today. Even the service businesses, necessary for the year-round residents, depend on the influx of tourism dollars to stay viable.
Many of those tourists stayed and built homes, seasonal or permanent, which are passed down to their children and grandchildren. Many of the lands that once supported orchards, inside and outside the village limits, gradually gave way to housing and businesses.
The rise in tourism created an explosion of restaurants. Long-time favorites, like Husby’s, were joined by those that filled buildings once housing other endeavors, like the new Grasse’s Grill, which opened in 2012. Sometimes, the changing needs and wants of tourists have created problems for the very businesses that were begun to serve them, as when condo owners cook their own food instead of eating in the restaurants. Still, during the summer season, the lines can be long at the eateries, even with the recent sluggish national economy.
In 2012, the number of orchards has dwindled as smaller operations became less viable. Those that are left tend to be much larger than the early mom-and-pop endeavors. Seaquist’s, for example, is probably the biggest orchard complex in Wisconsin. In many cases, small operators elected to sell their property rather than tear out and replant when fruit trees grew too old, or when children were not interested in carrying on the family orchard business. The Good Samaritan Society’s Scandia Village on Highway 57, a retirement and senior care facility, is built on land that once was orchards, and has become Sister Bay’s largest employer, providing jobs to around 200 people (Piggly Wiggly is the number two employer, and Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant & Butik is the third-largest employer in Sister Bay.)
The arrival of an enterprise like Scandia Village, the Country Walk Shops in the early 1980s, and the many condos that dot the shoreline, are all due largely to another of Sister Bay’s forward thinking projects — the sewer and water system that was approved in 1971 and installed in 1972. The vote was 185-119 for the water, and 191-116 for the sewer. Sister Bay was the first municipality in the county, except for Sturgeon Bay, to do so. The project wasn’t without opposition, and eventually the village president resigned because of the conflicts. Today, with the 20-20 hindsight of 40 years, shows that these utilities, especially the availability of clean, safe good-tasting water, had a tremendous impact on developers’ decision to build and expand Sister Bay.
A third major influence on Sister Bay in the past 50 years was the Marina. At one time, there was a private enterprise on the site called Kellstrom’s Dock. Most people admit that it didn’t provide secure moorings for the boats there, and the aftermath of storms often found some of the boats submerged. As early as 1973 the Sister Bay Business Association was asking for donations for a municipal dock. It was a slow process. Eventually, when serious plans began to be formed, the idea of having the village take over the marina resulted in “five years of wrangling,” with many injunctions against the project filed with the Department of Natural Resources, according to those involved at the time.
Despite the differing opinions, the village decided to go ahead with the project. In the 1990s, the village contracted with the University of Michigan to do an analysis of wave effect that would insure a marina design where boaters would feel confident to leave their vessels. A few cottages along the shore were bought up, and the result was a marina that increased the number of rental slips from 20 to 100, with 40 transient slips and ten commercial slips. It is equipped with showers and restroom facilities as well a large, easily accessible boat launch ramp and a pleasant, recently remodeled dock master’s office/lounge area for check-in/check-out. Charters and boat rentals are also available. The marina has a waiting list of people wanting to dock their boats there, and has become a big money-maker for the village.
Sister Bay continues to have plans for the waterfront. Acknowledging that visitors come to enjoy the shoreline, the village is making a concerted effort to keep as much of the shoreline public as possible. It is slowly buying up property, so that from the marina to the yacht club, 2,000 linear feet of waterfront land will be accessible not just to tourists, but also to residents. This is an ongoing project that will take a few years to complete.
In the past 100 years, Sister Bay has both changed and remained the same. Some examples have been mentioned already, like the Berns Bros./Lampert’s lumber evolution, and that of Country House Resort. Although it would be impossible to list all the then-and-now comparisons, here are a few. Some are stories with roots in the first 50 years, some have taken place only in the second 50. All of them demonstrate how the present has built on the bones of the past, and how it is laying the groundwork for the next 50 years.
Then & Now: Building on the Past
- In the early 1900s, John A. Pahl purchased a home from Alfred Sorenson which still stands, behind On Deck Clothing on Maple. The current home has a porch. In 1908, Pahl built a hardware store next door, where the back end of On Deck now sits. It was moved to the main highway and was destroyed by fire under the name of Pete’s Pizza in December 1961.
- In 1941, Bunda’s Department Store burned to the ground–but not for the first time. The business had begun in the Roeser homestead on Maple, and was moved to the corner of today’s Maple and Bay Shore Drive. Mrs. Wenzel Bunda operated the store, along with the post office, until the fire of 1912. It was rebuilt, and in 1920 sold to William Bunda. After the 1941 fire, it was again rebuilt, and in 1962 was “the most complete and modern department store in northern Door County,” according to the jubilee book. It is now On Deck Clothing, owned by Mitch Larson.
- Sister Bay Motors was founded by Ernest Isaacson in 1919 as a sub-dealer for Ford Motor Co. In 1927 he sold out to Leonard Swenson, and in 1957 it was purchased by Marcus Gobel. Today it is Sister Bay Motors, owned by Kenny and Candy Church.
- In 1928, Clarence Brod began a garage and filling station on what is now Bay Shore Drive. In 1956, the building was remodeled by Herman and Keta Steebs, and became Happy Herman Super Duper Market–with “and Son” being added in 1962. It is now Grasse’s Grill, and is owned by Jeff and Jill Grasse.
- Al Johnson opened Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in 1948, and it has been remodeled and expanded more than once since that time. In 1973 he put goats on the roof and now offers a “goat cam” where viewers around the world can watch the now-famous critters on the internet. Al died in June, 2010, and the business is now being run by Al’s children, Lars, Rolf and Annika.
- In 1930, Emma Husby bought a tar-paper covered building with no running water, electricity or second floor. She and her husband opened a restaurant where all the cooking was done on a wood stove. In 1962 it was the Cherryland Restaurant and Bar, and is now Husby’s again, owned by John Sawyer, and still standing on the famous corner that was once destroyed by fire in 1912.
- Around 1900, Ole Erickson’s Store opened on land just north of today’s village hall. Behind the store was a blacksmith shop. Eventually, Carl Benson bought the property and opened a small furniture store. In 1950, it changed hands again when John Witalison bought it and continued as Witalison Furniture. In 1960, it was sold to Grace and Richard Wilke who turned it into Wilke Furniture–and also sold the first television set. The building’s last use was as Al Johnson’s Butik, which has been bought by the village and torn down to make way for an expanded public waterfront.
- In 1962, John Vieth operated Johnny’s Cottage Restaurant, a business he said was a natural continuation of the hospitality his great-grandparents offered to travelers in the late 1800s. The building has been remodeled, but food is still served there under the name Sister Bay Cafe, next to the post office on Bay Shore Drive. It is now owned by Dave and Sue Daubner.
- Jungwirth Ace Hardware is now owned by Roger Jungwirth, grandson of Joseph Jungwirth who purchased the lot in 1946 from Leonard Swenson. An older building on that site had originally been an implement and blacksmith shop in 1904, and then a garage from 1933 to 1946. The new building was called Jungwirth Hardware, and this was its second location–the first being across the street where Drink Coffee is now.
- The Carroll House, which still serves fine food, opened in 1957 by Leonore Logerquist Carroll and her husband Norman, on highway 42 on Frank Logerquist’s original homestead. It is now owned by state Rep. Gary Bies.
- Anchor Sam’s Yacht Harbor, just outside Sister Bay, opened in 1956. It is now Yacht Works, and owned by Russ Forkert.
- In 1926, Gilbert Anderson began doing Masonry work with Sam Erickson, and six years later was operating on his own. In 1950 the business became Gilbert Anderson and Son. Now, it’s Marston M. Anderson Masonry, still going strong.
- In 1960, a building formerly known as the Penguin Drive-In was moved to the current location one mile south of the junction of highways 42 and 57 by Willard and Clarrisa Kramer and renamed Pat-I-O Drive-In. In 1964, they added a motel. Now known as Patio Drive In and Motel, the business was purchased in 1995 by their daughter and her husband, Jim and Connie Grotenhuis.
- Sister Bay Bowl, located on the corner of Bay Shore and Maple, had its beginnings before the turn of the century when it was a dance hall. It was destroyed by fire in 1912, rebuilt and remodeled through the years, and is still a hub of evening activity year round. The dance hall was torn down in 1958. At the time of the 50-year jubilee, it was owned by Earl Willems, whose father, Louis, had bought it in 1942. It is currently owned by Earl Willems’ children.
- In 1945, Masterfreeze Corporation put up a building on property where the first garage in Sister Bay was built by Emil Becker. Later, Algernon Smith operated a body shop there for many years. Masterfreeze eventually folded in the early 1960s shortly after it was bought by the Armstrong Corp., and the Walkway Shops went in. The building was later torn down and the lot is vacant once again.
- In 1972, the village took over the former Bank of Sturgeon Bay building (later BayLake Bank) and used it for its administrative offices and for village meetings. Before then, meetings were held in the village hall, and officers kept their paperwork in their homes.
- Work was sometimes done “on the road.” Glen Wiltse, long-time village clerk in the 1950s and ‘60s, also drove for the Lake and Bayview Bus service between Sister Bay and Manitowoc. Wiltse carried a card table with him and during layovers in Manitowoc, he set it up and worked on village business right there.
- In 2001, construction began on a new Sister Bay Library that is six times the size of the old one, which stood in the park next to the current post office. That old building was torn down as part of the waterfront reclamation project. The new library sits adjacent to what was the fire hall, but which is now used as a village maintenance building.
- In 2004, a new fire station was built on Mill Road, on the site of the old ballfield.
- Throughout the past years, Sister Bay’s growth has been within the original village limits. It wasn’t until 1972 that the village began enlarging its limits off Woodcrest Road to build a wastewater treatment plant and later to redo it nearby; a sports complex, and a dog park. A small annexation at the corner of Woodcrest and ZZ brought a private home within the village limits.
Sister Bay might be called a village with its roots firmly in the past, its present the result of a pioneering spirit that still exists in the descendants of those early settlers, and its gaze fixed determinedly toward a future that will be challenged by changing times, yet safeguarded by an appreciation of the village heritage. If today’s generation can look back and say, “well done,” may those living at the 150-year mark say the same thing when their celebration rolls around.