The bustling Sturgeon Bay waterfront, circa 1920s
Excerpt: An Oct. 11, 1902, item in a local newspaper noted: “The liveliest place out of the business streets is down at the elevator where hundreds of teams are to be found daily delivering peas and other products of the farm. The farmers never had such a cinch as they have this year, and they all appreciate the fact too.”
At that time, the granary employed five men. A dozen women were hired seasonally to sort and pick over the peas in an adjoining building. In October 1904, the Door County Democrat reported, “The firm makes a specialty of handling peas and thousands of bushels are shipped south each year.” An earlier report in another newspaper stated: “A consignment of peas recently went from here to Havana, Cuba, where they will be made into soup for the Cubans, no doubt. The firm of Teweles & Brandeis has established such an enviable reputation for the high character of the products it handles that their goods will find a ready market all over the civilized world. This is a pretty good thing for Door County also.”
Teweles and Brandeis Granary Welcome
The beginning of a new life
On March 29, 2018, the historic Teweles and Brandeis Granary -- downtown Sturgeon Bay’s last extant icon to Door County’s agricultural past -– was successfully moved to its temporary home on the city’s east side [as of June 2019, the Granary is happily back to its original home on the west side and proceeding with restoration and renovation for new public use]. As the community gathered to watch and celebrate, Rev. Allin Walker delivered the following words of welcome and dedication, pausing to spread soil brought from the granary’s original westside waterfront home.
You who are gathered here are the dreamers and the doers and the healers and the makers of new possibilities. In your names I ask you to join me in welcoming the historic granary to its new home and in blessing its new space: the ground it will rest on, the sky it will soar into, the water it will overlook and the history it embodies.
There were people here before its rise on the other side. We call them first or Native Americans. They drank these waters; they fished these waters; they grew their crops with these waters, then they were moved on. But in the spirit of their life here, I will ask you to join me in welcoming the gifts of the four directions.
Look to the East: To this place from the East will come the rising sun of each new day, a welcoming of the granary’s new life and rebirth. A welcoming of new dreams and possibilities. The beginning of a new future. (A handful of soil is spread.) Welcome gifts from the East.
Look to the South: From the South will come people wanting to be inspirited by the granary’s history, its inner workings, its beauty of form and function. In this way it will inspire them and in ways we cannot imagine. It may inspire some to save the historic granaries and relics of the past in their hometowns. Let us hope so. (A handful of soil is spread.) Welcome gifts from the South.
Look to the West: From the West will come the gifts of water and renewal and Mother Earth’s desire to be respected and valued and protected. The granary was a mid-point between the Earth’s agricultural bounty grown on countless farms, loaded on wagons, processed here then loaded on boats and other wagons to be turned into feed and food for people throughout the region and country. From the West we receive the gifts of Mother Earth. Let us work to be worthy of them. (A handful of soil is spread.) Welcome gifts from the West.
Look to the North: From the North will come healing and wisdom. We cannot be in conflict and seek new wisdom at the same time. There is a time for both and both come from the same passion. From the North, let us receive the passion to keep on keeping on, passion that is our foundation and the source from which we are nurtured and brought together. From the North, let us receive sustenance for our passion. (A handful of soil is spread.) Welcome gifts from the North.
On behalf of everyone who has made this day possible, in whatever way, I ask you to repeat after me: We celebrate the granary’s new life in this place. We thank those who have made its new life possible. We hope it will inspire others, wherever they be from, to value their histories as foundations for their futures.
NEWS AND UPDATES
The updates in February and March were followed by many of you through the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society's site. Numerous, complex, and out-of-the-box steps to find and implement a solution that would save the historic, iconic Granary fully occupied these weeks (and many months previously). The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society's and the community's dedication, persistence, heart, generosity, daily hard work in the face of challenges, more than one Hail Mary, unstoppable creativity and passion, is difficult to convey -- but has been a joy to see and experience. Much hard work is ahead, but with a new spirit of cooperation, all seems possible.
January 31, 2018: Our own Teweles and Brandeis Granary is one of four Wisconsin properties scheduled for Federal Register listing in pending action. The others are the Horicon State Bank, the Michael and Margaritha Beck Farmstead in Jefferson and the Lorine Niedecker cottage in Sumner. That is honorable company. (pdf here, and alternate format page 1 and page 2).
January 19, 2018: Sturgeon Bay city leaders attempt to save historic granary. "... According to state law - other options must be discussed before a historic building can be torn down. And these Alderwomen say - that rule has not been followed. 'From what I've heard from the State Historical Society,' Ald. Hauser said, 'Sturgeon Bay is the only community that has just turned its back on the law and not been willing to negotiate. And that's not a feather in our cap.' ... In the meantime - these city leaders say the community continues to support the granary. 'People love the historic downtown,' Ald. Hauser said. 'I mean this is what people, when they think of Sturgeon Bay, [what] they love about it.'. "
January 18, 2018: Letter to City. "... With the loss of the older generation, we lose the context of why we love Door County so much. And as we lose more and more historic structures and natural landscapes to opportunistic decisions that disregard Door County's unique history, such as the granary, our landmarks to Door's past recede... I urge you to consider the environmental damage being done to this beautiful and special place, whether it is the loss of historic landmarks or the despoilment of environment. Please put aside rancor and recognize the extraordinary opportunity to revitalize the granary." (letter in alternate format).
January 15, 2018: Sturgeon Bay Historical Society sends letter to Wisconsin DSPS. "We believe the Department has both a legal and ethical duty—if not to unilaterally withdraw the raze order as issued in excess of the Fire Chief’s authority—then at least to amend the order, as provided by sec. 101.14, to permit repairs as a remedy. Timely repair of the structure as outlined in the letter of intent is completely feasible and consistent with the Department’s duty to ensure public safety." (page 1 and page 2 of letter in alternate format, without attachments).
Also see public comment on the Till letter: "Virge on Dec 31, 2017 said: I commend Mike Till for speaking out about this issue. I too was asked my professional opinion three years ago about the building and after reviewing the building and the two other structural engineering reports provided to the city I concurred that the building could be saved. Based on my experience of working as a Specialist in Historic Architecture with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers I also advised the city of the granary’s historic context and value and urged them to consider an adaptive reuse initiative to create a lively and vital community center. I was unaware that Mike had also been consulted with. As an architect who not only assisted the federal government in writing the structural and historical evaluation protocols for its buildings but also as someone who worked for Mike nearly 20 years ago and saw first-hand how cautious and conservative he is with his structural assessments, I can think of few other people in this area whose opinion to save and stabilize a building should carry more weight. I hope the Council will carefully consider his words."
January 08, 2018: On Friday, January 5, the State Historic Preservation Office sent a letter to the city. "Based on conversations with representatives from the Wisconsin Department of Justice and DSPS, we believe that negotiation to minimize the adverse effects resulting from the demolition of the granary, including discussion of the building’s condition and options to demolition, is appropriate and mandatory pursuant to Wis Stat 44.42(2). We assert that this negotiation is not inconsistent nor will it interfere with any of the requirements of DSPS related to disposition of the building." (letter in alternate format).
Public Statement from Alderwomen Allmann, Catarozoli and Hauser. "...For these reasons, we believe it is premature, foolhardy and disrespectful of our community to vote to tear down the Teweles & Brandeis granary at taxpayer expense. We are in favor of working with the Department of Safety and Professional Services to stabilize the structure in a way that satisfies safety concerns and we strongly request that our City Administrator host and facilitate good faith, open and honest dialogue between council members and the public over options for the westside waterfront.". (letter page 1 and page 2 in alternate format).
January 04, 2018: On December 19, a slim majority of City Council voted inexplicably to violate state statute and proceed to raze the granary (Wisconsin statute requires the City to negotiate in good faith with the State Historic Preservation Office to consider repair options - which, by the way, have been more than fully privately funded). The granary still stands today, but hope is slim. The mayor has for many months unilaterally controlled the agenda, refusing to allow repair and reuse proposals, and private seven-figure funding, to be discussed at all - and now has removed public comment from Council meetings.
Also, structural engineer Mike Till corrects the record and pleads with fire chief to save the granary.
Also, this letter: "I’m confident, if preserved at its current location, the granary would become a community icon and would be featured on the cover of a Door County magazine. I hold onto hope.".
December 18, 2017: Sturgeon Bay Historical Society files Complaint Against Fire Chief and Request for Investigation. "The Fire Chief has exercised legal powers over the fate of the Granary which he does not have, based on a plain reading of the statutes. This is an abuse of his office. The Historical Society therefore requests that the Commission open an investigation of the Fire Chief’s actions in issuing the Raze Order".
December 17, 2017: Peninsula Pulse in-depth coverage makes clear the indefensible behavior of parts of the City government. "Though an anonymous donor pledged $1.25 million to save the historic Teweles and Brandeis Grain Elevator on Sturgeon Bay’s west side Oct. 26, the city has not had any serious discussion about accepting that offer, according to Mayor Thad Birmingham... Door County Community Foundation President Bret Bicoy  said the pledge is remarkably simple. The only stipulations for the funds are that the Granary be restored at its present location, and that the city and Sturgeon Bay Historical Society come to an agreement on a vision for the structure."
After being unwilling to even discuss the seven-figure pledge, denying Sturgeon Bay Historical Society's funded, insured, detailed proposal for structural analysis and repair from being presented or discussed for weeks, the mayor has also REMOVED all public comment opportunity from this Tuesday December 19th's noon Council meeting.
December 14, 2017: Letter from Wisconsin Historical Society to City
The State Historic Preservation Office requires from City other options for Granary and good faith negotiation.
"On October 30, the City’s Historic Preservation Commission passed a resolution in support of preserving the granary and working with the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society to utilize private dollars. Minutes of the HPC meeting were not shared with the City Council until after a motion to dismantle the structure was voted on and approved by the Council on November 21. The HPC resolution has not been discussed by the Council and although members of the Council have asked for the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society proposal to be added to numerous Council agendas, the mayor of Sturgeon Bay has declined to include it. ... Alderperson Laurel Hauser spoke with the Department of Safety and Professional Services Attorney Supervisor Al Rohmeyer after the petition was received. Rohmeyer told Hauser that although the Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief acted as a deputy of the state in issuing the raze order, DSPS sees this as a local issue and strongly encourages the Council and the Fire Chief to come to an agreement. Rohmeyer stated that he’d advised the Fire Chief to work with his lawyers to suggest a compromise. As of this press release, no compromise has been received."
December 06, 2017: Press Release from Sturgeon Bay Historical Society.
"... In November, the City Administrator and the City’s special legal counsel confirmed with the Department of Safety that the State has no intention of issuing forfeitures for a violation of the raze order, provided that the City continues to act to address the issue. Those assurances should have eliminated the claimed need for a rushed demolition of the granary. But an objective investigation of the granary’s condition is still being blocked by the Fire Chief. By claiming that the granary is in danger of collapse, but not allowing any qualified professional to test that claim, the Fire Chief has created perfect cover for the Mayor and those on the Council who wish to destroy the granary, regardless of public opinion and regardless of taxpayer expense..."
November 30, 2017:
See the entirety of the Fire Chief's raze order materials and judge for yourself. (The substance seems quite sketchy, and it is also troubling that both the fire chief and the mayor advised the city administrator to 'remove the numbers' – that 1/16" – from the report to Council).
A few days ago the City Council voted 4-3 to turn down $1.4 million dollars of private donation for public benefit, and to spend taxpayer dollars to take down the Granary.
Bid notice: "Notice is hereby given that the City of Sturgeon Bay will receive sealed bid proposals for Project 1704 – 92 E Maple Street Granary Demolition at the office of the City Clerk until 1:00 PM on December 6, 2017 at which time the bids will be publicly opened and read aloud. The project involves demolition of the granary building and site restoration."
This is far from a bid request for 'deconstruction' for the purposes of being able to reconstruct the Granary, as the Council motion purportedly intended.
"...Salvaged materials should be left whole to the maximum extent practical. The objective of the salvage effort, being to dismantle the salvaged structural materials in such a way that the salvaged materials could be reassembled... Materials to be salvaged include: post and beam timbers with a minimum dimension of greater than or equal to four inches and artifacts such as sheaves / pulley systems, ropes, grain tubes, etc... Dimensional lumber, built up members, broken, rotted or warped materials are not to be considered as materials needing to be salvaged....”
November 22, 2017: We are distraught to report that yesterday we might have lost the 116-year-old historic iconic Granary, when Sturgeon Bay Council voted 4-3 to turn down $1.4 million dollars of private donation for public benefit, and to spend taxpayer dollars to take it down instead. (The City presumably needs to get bids for this. Any ideas to help us, please write to us at the bottom of this page).
November 20, 2017: Sturgeon Bay Historical Society proposed contract for the Granary is on tomorrow's Council agenda. Please review it. Come to the Council meeting at noon tomorrow, speak at the start of the meeting for a YES! vote on closed session agenda item #14-b-1 to accept the SBHS contract to engage Meyer Borgman Johnson for Granary structural assessment and repair using private funds, and more. (And a NO! vote on agenda items #15 and #16 to raze the granary).
November 10, 2017: City Council voted to allow 60 days for two firms (including Meyer Borgman Johnson who performed the 2013 full structural assessment for the City) to re-assess the Granary structure. The City is acting responsibly – to use private funds from SBHS to secure and assess the structure is a prudent step; the City is taking immediate action to safeguard the granary structure while determining whether it can be repaired. SBHS is diligently working with the City for the professional engineers to begin as soon as possible.
November 06, 2017: Press Release: Updated offer from SBHS covers all bases and pays all costs: safe analysis, repair, or demolition if repair is not feasible. Zero taxpayer dollars in all cases. This seems the most sensible option: public safety, and taxpayer interests.
November 06, 2017: Proposed Resolution
November 04, 2017: City has posted Council Agenda Supplement! Thank you to the alderpeople who assisted, and to everyone who has contacted the City in support of the Granary! Still worried about sufficient Council support for saving the Granary. Council meeting Tuesday November 7th at noon.
November 03, 2017: Wisconsin Historical Society Letter to City
November 02, 2017: SBHS Proposal for Repair to City
November 02, 2017: Proposed Council Resolution Authorizing Appeal of Raze Order
November 02, 2017: Center For The Arts' Letter of Support.
October 31, 2017: Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center's Letter of Support.
October 30, 2017: Historic Preservation Commission votes 5-1 in support of safely stabilizing, saving and restoring the Historic Granary using private funds from Sturgeon Bay Historical Society.
Letter from County Historian George Evenson read to Commission. "This structure must be saved; it is the right building, located on the right spot. It truly represents past community history, waterfront activity and will become more valuable as time goes by."
October 26, 2017: Letter from Door County Community Foundation to City with $1,250,000 gift for Historic Granary
October 26, 2017: Press Release
$1,250,000 Committed to Restoration of Historic Granary
The Sturgeon Bay Historical Society (SBHS) is pleased to announce that a donor family has committed $1,250,000 toward the repair, restoration and future maintenance of the historic 1901 Teweles & Brandeis grain elevator, situated on the City of Sturgeon Bay’s westside waterfront, for public benefit.
See letter from Door County Community Foundation to City.
October 20-23, 2017:
October 19, 2017:
Press Release: City prepares to tear down Historic Grain Elevator without proper study.
See the thorough 2013 Structural Analysis of Grain Elevator (8Mb) from engineering firm Meyer Borgman Johnson for the City, which concludes, "the existing elevator is in generally good condition and retains sufficient capacity to support this intended use, with some modifications."
For immediate Release – August 25, 2017
On Friday, the Wisconsin Historic Preservation Review Board affirmed the significance of the Teweles & Brandeis grain elevator, located on Sturgeon Bay’s west side. By unanimous vote, the Board approved the granary for inclusion on the State Registry of Historic Places, noting the role it played in the region’s community and agricultural life. The Board action culminates a designation process that began in 2015. The State Historic Preservation Officer will now forward the Board’s findings to the federal Department of the Interior, which will evaluate the granary for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“The granary has always been a hub of economic activity,” said Sturgeon Bay Historical Society President Christie Weber. “Farmers used to bring wagons full of peas there for processing and sale, and of course local people remember the granary’s many years as part of the Door County Co-op complex. We’re grateful to the Preservation Review Board for its meticulous work evaluating the granary and gratified that the Board deemed it worthy of listing. It’s an honor.”
Alderman Kelly Catarozoli also attended the Friday meeting in Madison. “Many cities’ most beloved places were once abandoned historic structures that have been returned to economic productivity thanks to thoughtful rehabilitation. Some people see only a dilapidated structure, but we’ve come a long way from redevelopment by wrecking ball. With the Maritime Museum, the trail system and Sawyer Park, we’ve got the makings of a waterfront cultural district. That would be consistent with the site’s status as public land and also complement the commercial and industrial uses we already have along our waterfront. The more distinctive Sturgeon Bay becomes, and the better the access we provide to the water, the more competitive we will be as a tourism destination too,” said Catarozoli.
The building’s distinctive profile and waterfront location make it attractive for a range of public, private and not-for-profit uses. “National designation would also help a future not-for-profit user, because the building’s rehabilitation creates another fundraising objective they can use to attract support. The Historical Society is working to get a handle on the building’s renovation requirements and clarity about what the Sturgeon Bay City Council needs to become confident that adaptive reuse is the best strategy for the granary and the City,” said Weber.
The Historical Society wants the granary to return to productivity to further both economic development and historic preservation in Sturgeon Bay. “It’s a little counter-intuitive,” said Weber, “but the best way to preserve a building is to fill it with bustling activity. We want the granary to be a magnet for community life and a hub of commerce… fulfilling its historic role in a way that makes sense for contemporary Sturgeon Bay. “
For further information, contact Kelly Avenson at (920) 559-0504.
SBHS Response to Mayor's letter, August 21, 2017
Sturgeon Bay Historical Society formed and submits nomination for Teweles and Brandeis Grain Elevator
On October 27, 2016, members of the executive committee of a new nonprofit announced news of incorporation. Committee members Kelly Catarozoli, Hans Christian, Shawn Fairchild, Ame Thorson, and Christie Weber announced that the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society (SBHS) is in the process of incorporation, at the Friends of the Sturgeon Bay Public Waterfront second annual Fall Social. (Two additional founding members, Laura Kayacan and Elaine Carmichael were not present.)
According to Fairchild, “There are many organizations devoted to preserving Door County’s history, but none solely focused on Sturgeon Bay. We feel there is a need to support efforts to preserve and celebrate our history, including the preservation and restoration of historic structures.”
Toward that end, the group has submitted a professionally prepared application to the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) for designation of the Teweles and Brandeis grain elevator located on the westside waterfront. Historic preservation consultant Tim Heggland prepared the application and has successfully submitted over 100 NRHP applications. The application was pre-approved by the State before being submitted to the federal agency. Application materials are available below.
Weber noted that SBHS will also seek to have the historic Cardy Paleoindian site on the City’s west side incorporated into the Ice Age Trail that runs just blocks from it. The Cardy site is one of the state’s most significant Ice Age-related sites and is listed on the Wisconsin and National Registers of Historic Places.
Letter from Door County Community Foundation to City with $1,250,000 gift for Historic Granary
Please Pledge Your Support (print form and mail); or email SBHS with your name, contact info and pledge; or fill in the form at the bottom of this page with a pledge; or you can walk your contribution in to North Shore Bank and tell them it is for Sturgeon Bay Historical Society. Every pledge, no matter the size, matters a great deal to the Granary, to demonstrate community support! Thank you.
November 10th, Letter to Sturgeon Bay Council, Mayor, and Staff:
I know that none of you actually represent me in any capacity as I am a resident of the Town of Sevastopol. However, I am hoping that you might consider my opinion on saving the old granary.
My grandfather, Karl Rudolph moved from Liberty Grove to Sevastopol in 1899 to find improved farmland, and better markets for his farm products. He sold many horse drawn wagonloads of grain to the Teweles and Brandeis firm. My father, Edgar Rudolph did significant business with Stanley Brandeis, and later the Door County Cooperative in the same location. I continued that tradition until the Door County Cooperative moved out of town.
The granary is most likely the last link to Sturgeon Bay's agricultural past. At one time, Sturgeon Bay had blacksmith shops, harness shops, implement dealers, food processing facilities, feed processing plants, and various warehouses for storing ag products. The granary is all that is left. It would be a most fitting memorial to honor the hard work and risk taking our ancestors undertook to get us where we are today.
Thank you for your consideration.
“The Teweles and Brandeis Grain Elevator not only tells a story but has such a great presence on the landscape."
Neil Prendergast, State Preservation Review Board Vice-Chair, and History Committee member (August 18, 2017)
"The Teweles and Brandeis grain elevator is now the only surviving historic resource in the city that can attest to the city's historically important role in agricultural production in Door County , and the elevator's significance is further strengthened by its highly original exterior and interior."
- Timothy F. Heggland, historic preservation professional
"Agriculture built this City."
- George Evenson, Door County Historian
A Vision for the Granary
The mission of the Historic Granary Collective is to explore and discuss the most appropriate way to honor, protect, preserve and sustain the historic Teweles and Brandeis Granary on Sturgeon Bay’s westside waterfront. As the last remaining waterfront icon to our agrarian past, the Granary embodies the struggles and ingenuity of Door County’s early settlers and represents an important chapter in our history. The Historic Granary Collective will also assess the best ways to communicate and celebrate the legacy and stories of the Granary and the people who relied upon it
Over the past three years, much progress has been made in learning the stories and understanding the historic significance of the Granary for Sturgeon Bay. Beginning with historic newspaper and image research, the most recent accomplishment is the research and preparation of papers documenting the Granary in the context of requirements of the National Register of Historic Places. As of January 2016, historic preservation professional Timothy F. Heggland has completed this research and writing. Stay tuned for updates as we engage the broader community in discussions about how to best protect our Granary. Meantime - please enjoy the stories - get acquainted with the important role of the Granary and agriculture in Sturgeon Bay's history. Start with the historic preservation narrative.
1. Read the historic preservation narrative, prepared to the standards of the National Register of Historic Places (updated 26 January 2016). October 2016: Newly-formed Sturgeon Bay Historical Society has submitted nomination to National Register of Historic Places for Teweles and Brandeis Grain Elevator.
2. Corresponding images (2Mb, updated 26 January 2016)
3. Supplemental History, two images and text (1.5Mb, updated 08 February 2016)
4. A draft chart, just to aid in discussions, that summarizes conversations with State historic preservation staff (updated 26 January 2016)
5. Model Easement that could be used in some options for protecting the granary (updated 26 January 2016)
6. Sturgeon Bay's Historic Preservation Municipal Code (retrieved from City website 26 January 2016)
7. Read the Granary Historic Questionnaire (updated 28 April 2015).
9. Photos and Maps (3.7Mb)
Thank you to everyone who found articles, pictures and materials, or took photos, that have been used in the research and documentation. Thank you to our Library for ensuring that our history and heritage is always available for us to deepen our understanding of place.
Do you have a suggestion? Idea? Historic photo? Story about Sturgeon Bay's agricultural history? Do you want to come to a community meeting about this? Write us.