Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (May 12, 2023) – History will come alive at Crossroads this weekend! Our Spring Archaeological Dig is underway. During the Door County Historical Society’s Opening Day of the Heritage Village on Saturday, May 20, costumed interpreters will be working in the Heritage Garden at Crossroads at Big Creek. And, daily through May 21, from 2:00-4:00 p.m., tours will be offered in the Bertha and Hans Hanson House at 2022 Utah Street.
On Saturday night, the Door Peninsula Astronomical Society will hold its monthly Viewing Night, starting at dark, which now is around 9:00 p.m. Curiously, stargazing is, in a very real way, looking into the past.
While it may seem odd that an environmental organization should focus on history, understand that humans have been altering the land for thousands of years. Many so-called “land improvements” that seemed to be a good idea at the time turn out to be detrimental to the environment.
Poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “Do the best that you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
So Crossroads is endeavoring to learn as much as we can about the preserves we now steward, to learn from past mistakes and then to do better. And that’s not all. Our goal is to use what we learn to teach private landowners and other land managers how to make sound decisions about other properties. By looking back, we are looking forward.
We also believe we can best honor and celebrate the First People, the European settlers, and the various ethnic groups who have lived and labored on our land by learning and sharing their stories.
During the Door County Historical Society’s Heritage Village Opening Day, the Heritage Garden at Crossroads will be open. Each year, volunteers from the Door County Master Gardeners Association decide the ethnic group to be represented. In 2023, we will create a German Garden.
The Heritage Gardeners were extraordinarily lucky that the award-winning writer and landscape historian Lee Somerville was the volunteer leader of this effort for several years. In addition to writing the book “Vintage Wisconsin Gardens,” she created several ethnic garden designs for Crossroads and was a patient and wisdom-filled mentor for Master Gardeners volunteers.
Then several years ago, Old World Wisconsin’s Marsha Carmichael, author of “Putting Down Roots, Gardening Insights from Wisconsin’s Early Settlers,” spoke at Crossroads at a Master Gardener seminar, after which she visited our garden and shared suggestions.
According to Carmicheal, German immigrants brought “an ingrained sense of order and practicality” to their gardens. “In Germany, they had learned to raise crops to maximize yields and they took pride in productive, well-ordered, neat, and attractive farmsteads.”
German gardens were laid out in rectangular beds, with pathways covered (to avoid tracking mud into the house). During the Opening Day event, we will be laying out the square garden plots and putting down the straw for the pathways.
As a part of our Spring Archaeological Experience, while the team of professional archaeologists work at the test unit at The Cove Estuary Preserve, between 2:00-4:00 p.m. Thursday-Sunday afternoons, we will offer tours of the first floor of the Bertha and Hans Hanson House across Utah Street from the dig.
The original building, a two-room log structure was built in 1857, but in 1872, during the building of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, Hans was able to collect enough rock from the canal excavation site to build a full basement.
According to descendent Lynette Thonne, author of “Walk in the Footsteps, The Hanson House and Family Story,” “the cabin was disassembled and built over the basement. New, extra-long roof beams were cantilevered beyond the east end of the house to cover an unheated area, or forstuef, that included a front entrance, storage and access to the new second story.”
According the Thonne, the house had five additions and renovations over the years, but when the Door County Historical Society restored, they chose 1875 as the depiction year. Tours will be free and open to the public.
For the next couple of weeks, Crossroads will be hosting a number of school field trips, Earth Days celebrations, and hikers eager to be out in nature after our prolonged winter. Habitat Healers will be meeting on Saturday mornings from 9:00 – 11:00 a.m. and volunteers of all ages and all abilities are encouraged to join.
Crossroads at Big Creek Learning Center and Nature Preserve is located at 2041 Michigan Street. Crossroads is a 501(c)3 organization committed to offering education, conducting research and restoration, and providing outdoor experiences to inspire environmental stewardship in learners of all ages and from all backgrounds. We welcome your support.