Little Sister Resort: A Legacy of Endurance and Tranquility

Little Sister Resort

Escape. Freedom. The allure of a new beginning. These are the foundations on which Little Sister Resort was established. A captivating tale that dates back to August 1865, when Endre Endreson and his son Gunnar embarked on a journey from Trondheim, Norway, to America, seeking a life free from mandatory military service.

A Humble Beginning

Gunnar’s sister had already made her way to Ephraim, Wisconsin, and it was there that the duo found solace. Five years after their arrival in America, Gunnar, now known as Gunder, seized an opportunity and purchased 108 acres of untamed land along the serene shores of Little Sister Bay. The purchase itself was unconventional – Gunder agreed to provide 550 bushels of potatoes over three years in exchange for the property. The agreement stipulated that only the best potatoes were to be delivered, and any shortfall would be compensated in cash at a rate of 75 cents per bushel. With the final payment of $412.50, Little Sister Resort was born in 1874, marked by Gunder’s humble ‘X’ signature on the contract.

Building Dreams

With unyielding determination, Gunder would make the arduous three-mile journey each day from his sister’s house to the land he had acquired. There, he cleared space for a cabin and erected a pier to facilitate the transport of his logs to Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay, and Chicago. A neighboring Swedish family, who had also settled in the vicinity, introduced Gunder to Emma, his future wife.

Together, Gunder and Emma forged a life rooted in simplicity and resourcefulness. Raising ten children in their rustic shorefront abode, they taught them the values of hard work, self-sufficiency, and the Baptist Creed. Emma wove fabric for their clothes, and their diet consisted of fish, venison, bear meat, and the limited produce their land could yield. In the autumn, the children embarked on expeditions to gather beechnuts, butternuts, and wild berries. As their children grew, they formed alliances with other Norwegian and Swedish settlers, creating a tightly-knit community that thrived on mutual support.

A Shift in Fortunes

One of Gunder and Emma’s sons, Grant, eventually took over the Little Sister property and transitioned from commercial fishing to farming. Initially, Grant and his brother supplemented their income by providing a company in Marinette, Wisconsin, with salted fish. In just two years, they managed to pay for their first fishing net, which kickstarted their fishing enterprise. Their bustling fishing rig, consisting of a sailboat, a motorboat, skiffs, and countless nets, operated during the fishing seasons, supplying herring that was salted and packed in wooden kegs. However, around 1911, Grant sold the fishing business and shifted his focus to managing the family farm.

Embracing a New Chapter

At the turn of the 20th century, the allure of Door County as a summer retreat grew exponentially. Visitors flocked to the peninsula, seeking respite from the sweltering heat of Chicago and other urban centers. Grant recognized this burgeoning demand and, together with his wife Lydia Peterson, began welcoming guests to their farmhouse, providing lodging and delicious meals. As the popularity of their hospitality grew, they constructed cabins to accommodate the ever-increasing number of visitors. Grant would eagerly greet guests arriving at the piers in Sister Bay and Ephraim, inviting them to indulge in Mrs. Anderson’s delectable roasts and mouthwatering cherry pies, with the simple instruction to “eat as much as you want.” Word spread, and soon, the resort became a cherished destination for countless repeat visitors seeking solace in the embrace of nature.

A Legacy Preserved

From 1947 until 1973, Grant’s grandsons, Winfield and Roland Anderson, dutifully carried the torch, managing and nurturing the Little Sister Resort. For 102 years, it stood tall as the last remaining original resort in Sister Bay, an embodiment of history and cherished memories. Now, in the year 2020, a new chapter begins as the resort changes hands. Even as a new era dawns, the legacy of Little Sister Resort will forever be etched in the annals of Sister Bay’s history.

Cottage 18, built in 1921, along with the other charming cottages that dot the resort, serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of Little Sister Resort. The dining room and kitchen, constructed in 1921 and expanded upon in later years, bear witness to the countless shared meals and moments of laughter that have echoed within their walls. The barn, chicken house, and homestead, each with their unique stories, complete the tapestry of this remarkable place.

Ambassadeur Hotel