Some things get old, while others get better with time. There’s no doubt about the category in which Fish Creek’s jewel, the White Gull Inn, belongs. At age 124, it still reigns at the end of Main Street, as it has since 1896. Inside, the cozy warmth of the early American décor continues to charm diners and houseguests.
When Herman Welcker of Milwaukee brought his family to vacation in Fish Creek in the mid-1890s, he found a bustling village whose primary business was shifting from fishing to summer tourism. The only housing for those visitors was a boarding house owned by Asa Thorp, the village founder.
Like many tourists today, Welcker decided to stay in Door County permanently. He built what is now the White Gull Inn, named it The Henriette for his wife, surrounded it with cottages and acquired more land for a dock and a farm that produced food for the inn.
During the 1950s and ’60s, many of Door County’s historic inns were torn down or “remuddled” beyond recognition. The Henriette, even while going through several ownership and name changes, escaped that fate when Andy and Elsie Redmann purchased it in 1959. They renamed it the White Gull Inn; created a warm, early American look; and started a fish boil on a flagstone patio under century-old maple trees.
The Coulsons bought out the other partners in 1981 and began years of intensive work, creating an exquisitely restored interior inside a charming, old shell. They also acquired two houses for their staff and two more rental properties, including the historic Lundberg House, built in 1895 by Fish Creek’s first grocer.
Today the White Gull Inn – which long ago earned its place on the State and National Registers of Historic Places – has become a favored dining and bed-and-breakfast spot for generations of locals and tourists.
The property, open year-round, includes 13 two-person rooms and four cottages that accommodate from two to eight. Every room has been meticulously restored, maintained and decorated with antiques, coordinating prints and fabrics that retain the warm, turn-of-the-20th-century flavor. Amenities are strictly up to date, and a full breakfast is included in the room rate.
And then there is the famous cherry-stuffed French toast. That is what we always came for, but they were not serving during the pandemic in 2020 when we visited. It was expected, so it was not a surprise.
Photo captured August 20, 2020.
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