STURGEON BAY, WI — Wisconsin News Today was on the scene this Wednesday evening as local County Board members passed a controversial referendum that some are saying isn’t giving them a breath of fresh air. The vote passed 17-4 in favor of Door County being renamed Window County. It will be the sixth county to implement a name change since the state’s inception in 1848.
The county’s name has an unusual origin. Soon after formation in 1851, its namesake was inspired by the strait linking Green Bay and Lake Michigan known as Porte de Morts – or Death’s Door. Notorious for its hazardous conditions, at least 24 sailing vessels have been lost in its rocky waters and countless men have perished.
According to District 19 Supervisor and Chair David Lienau, the county is ready to move away from the negative connotation. “When Wisconsin closes a door, it opens a window. We have historically kept our doors open to visitors year round – and that will never change. We are embracing this window of opportunity and hope our residents will join us in celebrating this June 1st when we officially rebrand as Window County, Wisconsin.”
First proposed in 2018 by the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Door County, the concept was initially met with opposition by County Board supervisors. Reasoning that the cost for replacing signage alone was prohibitive, the idea was shelved. The public push for change led them to reconsider and they reignited the discussion early this year.
Local resident Ann Holtz, who began a petition in support of the change, was thrilled to see the referendum pass. “We’re so pleased with the outcome. My father, rest his soul, was always uncomfortable with the idea of living in a county whose namesake evokes images of sailors in peril,” Holtz said. “The strong currents needlessly took the lives of many strapping young men. On the other hand, Door County cherry pies have been cooling on window sills for decades in my home.”
Other residents are less enthused. “Think of all the small businesses that will have to get new websites, new logos – the pandemic has put a hard enough strain on local establishments,” says Thomas Kluneberg, owner of the Door County Tavern. Retirees Mark and Penny Wagner were much more concise. When asked about their feelings about the change, they simply remarked, “No.”
The June 1st ceremony will take place at the soon-to-be-rebranded Door County Maritime Museum where rock songstress Melissa Ethridge is slated to perform and usher in the new county motto – “Come To My Window County.”