Home Away From Home: Ephraim’s Historic Hotels

The Anderson Hotel (from the EHF Archives)

This year’s Anderson Barn Museum exhibit tells the stories of Ephraim’s early hotels and the individuals and families who became a part of each hotel’s history.  Tourism has been an important part of Ephraim since the turn of the 20th century, and it changed the fortunes of this small pioneer community.  When the village was founded in 1853, Ephraim’s economy was based primarily on lumber, with some fishing and farming.  By the late 1800s, area lumber was scarce, and a new industry emerged with the arrival of the Goodrich Steamship Line.

Tourists from Milwaukee and Chicago, looking for a change of scenery and drawn by the fresh air and natural beauty of Door County, boarded a steamship and, after a multi-day journey, arrived at Ephraim’s Anderson Dock.  Others arrived by stagecoach after taking the train to Sturgeon Bay.  As more and more visitors arrived, an obvious problem emerged: where would these tourists stay?

Hotel Ephraim (from the EHF Archives)

These early hotels were not just a place to sleep, but they also provided meals in a time before restaurants became commonplace.  Each establishment offered something unique to guests.  Some of the hotels entertained visitors with comedy and variety shows, while others were known for a special recipe or notable décor.  These hotels sought to make guests feel at home; with transportation to Door County being more expensive and more difficult than it is now, a tourist might stay for the whole summer, rather than taking today’s shorter vacations.

From owners to staff to guests, there were hundreds of individuals who have impacted the history of these hotels.  The hotels were largely family and community affairs, with many employees and owners involved in multiple properties.  One person from the history of each hotel is featured in this exhibit, though there are countless others whose stories could be told.

Home Away from Home: Ephraim’s Historic Hotels opens on Friday, June 14, 2019, and will be on exhibit through Saturday, October 12.  Click here to learn more about the EHF Museums.

-Guest Blogger Emily Irwin

2 thoughts on “Home Away From Home: Ephraim’s Historic Hotels”

  1. Jean Norton Eckrich

    The George Norton Sr. Family started coming to the Anderson Hotel from Chicago very early 1900’s. They stayed every year under the friendship of Kitty and Edward Valentine and that continued for years after the Norton “Berwyn Lodge” was built on N Dane St. Around 1920. I grew up every summer being able to enter the kitchen helping myself to a glass of milk or juice from Lucille the cook and every summer we would gather for the Cherry Festival in the upper Rec Room where we would have talent shows and listen to the waitresses sing “The Eyes of Kitty are Upon Yiu” to the tune of “The Eyes if Texas”. Many of the same people congregated year after year and enjoyed the family style dinners and hanging out in the parlor listening to piano and songs. My mother, June Norton was a concert pianist and my father, Geo H Norton, Jr sang a lovely baritone for many years with Kitty and Everett Anderson. I literally grew up in that hotel and stayed friends with the Anderson’s grandchildren for many years. I miss those precious days of song and laughter at the Anderson Hotel!

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