By Jude Genereaux
Loyal guests and visitors returning to Door County expect to find two things each year: the assurance that it never changes, and the joy of new discovery. Blending those expectations has been a goal well met at the White Gull Inn, poised to celebrate its 125th year in Fish Creek.
Continuing under the stewardship of the Coulson family, the Gull was originally built in the 1890s as part of Welckers Resort by German-born Dr. Herman Welcker. Initially dubbed the “Henriette Inn,” it was part of an ambitious project created to reflect a European health spa. Welcker’s vision included new cottages around the Inn, and then a casino, as it became a thriving destination.
When the resort later split into separate establishments, Andy Redmann of Madison purchased the Inn in 1959. Changes were made by Redmann to the dining room décor and menu, notably adding the popular Fish Boil (possibly the first commercial fish boil in Door County!) that ultimately became part of the property’s heritage.
Andy and Jan Coulson purchased the Inn in 1972; in 2018, daughter Meredith and her husband Chris Kanter secured the family’s continued involvement in the business by buying it from the previous generation. Having grown up within the warm ambience of the White Gull, Meredith‘s commitment to maintain its allure is as strong as her wish to continue the feeling of community found among both staff and visitors.
“There is a feeling of family returning, when our guests arrive each year,” Meredith said recently. “Our visitors count on a consistent experience, so revamping to maintain modern comfort, yet maintaining tradition, can be a delicate balance.” The Coulson-Kanters are striving to stay true to past standards as they slowly bring new ideas to the menu and the Inn’s comforts.
What makes this 125th anniversary special? Meredith notes a focus on getting past the coronavirus crisis’s effects on tourism, take-out food menu, outdoor seating, new ideas for sandwiches, and continued emphasis on local produce.
“Partnering with Waseda Farms resulted in our very popular tacos — we want to continue that involvement. Being creative has always been part of the White Gull, and our 125th anniversary will honor that as we offer consistent experiences.”