Door County's Emerald Treasure
A History of Peninsula State Park
Publication Year: 2006
With its magnificent forests, bluffs, and shoreline and its breathtaking views of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, Door County’s Peninsula State Park is one of the Midwest’s most popular attractions. Established in 1909, it was Wisconsin’s second state park and a key to pioneering efforts to build a state park system that would be the envy of the nation.
Door County’s Emerald Treasure explores the rich history of the park land, from its importance to Native Americans and early European settlers through the twentieth century. Bill Tishler engagingly relates the role of conservationists and progressives in establishing the state park, its growing popularity for tourism and recreation, and efforts to protect the park’s resources from a variety of threats. Tishler also tells a larger story of Americans’ intimate relationship with the land around them and the challenge to create accessible public spaces that preserve the natural environment.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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At the beginning of this century Wisconsin celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of its first state park. The purchase of land for Interstate State Park in 1900 marked the beginning of a system of magnificent state parks that would become the envy of the nation. This visionary system was conceived by the brilliant landscape architect John Nolen...
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This book was a labor of love, but writing it was a daunting task that would not have reached fruition without the help of many people. I am especially appreciative for the vital support provided by the foundations and individuals listed on the donor page...
1. Patterns of the Park's Landscape
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Jutting into the shimmering waters of Green Bay between Fish Creek and Ephraim lies Peninsula State Park, one of Wisconsin's most scenic and popular vacation areas. This 3,776-acre emerald treasure has more than eight miles of shoreline, with sandy beaches and...
2. The Native Americans
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Long before settlers of European ancestry arrived, Native Americans camped within what became Peninsula State Park. The surrounding waters provided excellent fishing, and flocks of geese and ducks frequented its marshes and bays. Deer, bear, turkeys, and pigeons were plentiful. The abundant maple trees provided sugar...
3. Early Residents: The Park's Pioneers
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Euro-American settlement in the park began several years after the United States land survey of the area was completed. In 1844, Increase and Mary Claflin, credited with being the first permanent settlers in Door County, moved to the park after having lived for a time at Little Sturgeon Bay...
4. Weborg Point
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Just inside the Fish Creek entrance to the park is Weborg Point, a small elbow of land jutting into Green Bay that is now used as a campground. Adjoining it, to the south and east, is a shallow bay and wetland-the Peninsula White Forest Natural Area. The land here was once covered with mixed coniferous and deciduous fores...
5. Eagle Bluff Lighthouse: Guardian of the Green Bay Passage
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The premier cultural icon in Peninsula Park is the picturesque lighthouse that has graced its high bluff-top setting since 1868. In 1867 the United States Lighthouse Board proposed several additional lighthouses on Lake Michigan in northeast Wisconsin. At the time, northern Door County was essentially a wilderness, with just a few fledgling...
6. Thomas Reynolds, John Nolen, and Legislation to Establish the Park
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Wisconsin was one of the first states to create a state park system. A national movement for state parks had begun in 1864, when the federal government ceded Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the State of California...
7. Naming the Park and Purchasing the Land
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As legislation to establish the new park moved closer to passage, two serious complications arose: the name it would be given and acquisition of the land. Each would generate considerable controversy and have political implications both in northern Door County...
8. The Doolittle Years
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With Peninsula State Park formally established, it was essential to select someone to oversee the many tasks required for its development. This individual had to be proficient in construction, forestry, conservation practices, public relations, and political acumen-somewhat of a "renaissance ranger." A. E. Doolittle proved to be just such an individual...
9. Camp Meenahga
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Few people today remember the bustling summer camp for girls that operated in the park from 1916 through 1948. Known as Camp Meenahga, it was organized by two gracious and resourceful women from St. Louis: Mrs. Warren L. (Alice) Clark and Mrs. H. C. (Fanny) Mabley. Both were widows...
10. The Golf Course: One of Wisconsin's Finest
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Versions of the game of golf are centuries old and golfing as we know it today has its origins in England and Scotland. The sport was introduced to Wisconsin in the late nineteenth century and today the state has nearly five hundred courses...
11. Potawatomi: Peninsula's Sister Park
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Adecade after Peninsula was established, a second state park-Potawatomi- was designated in Door County. This 1,046-acre tract consists of two and three-quarter miles of shoreline and a majestic bluff rising some 150 feet above the waters of Sturgeon Bay...
12. Camp Peninsular and the CCC
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The Civilian Conservation Corps was one of the many New Deal programs created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression. Signed into law early in 1933, it became one of Roosevelt's first New Deal initiatives...
13. The CCC Controversy
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Virtually from its onset, the CCC program was subjected to criticism. Late in 1934, a Saturday Evening Post editorial accused the program, and its approximately 850,000 young men, of "Manicuring the Wilderness." While admitting the program...
14. Winter Sports
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Winter sports had long been popular with residents of Door County. When the bays froze over, "hundreds of people enjoyed skating, ice sail skating, ice boat sailing, playing hockey and in addition to this horse racing on a track laid out on the ice...
15. World War II and Beyond at the Park
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Several months after A. E. Doolittle retired in 1942, Ralph Halvorsen arrived at the park as a conservation aide. Later, after serving at several other state parks, Halvorsen would return to become superintendent at Peninsula...
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Publication Year: 2006