Washington Island’s Icelandic Heritage
I was truly surprised on a recent visit to Washington Island off the Door County Penninsula to learn that here was one of the largest concentrations of Icelandic heritage outside of Iceland! No wonder we sell so many of our Iceland 1906 maps! (Shown above, handpainted by Lisa Middleton.) Across Death’s Door, a different culture lives on in the community of Washington Island.
I always love a good map story, and here is one that ties into our Icelandic heritage.. this is a letter to Iceland that literally had a map for the address. And by golly it found it’s way to the right person!
While Irish and German immigrants were the first to settle Washington Island in 1870 a group of four Icelandic men settled on the island, seeking to take advantage of the fishing and farming opportunities on the island.
Chester Thordarson, an inventor and economist, brought new wealth to the community in the 1930s, and today that proud heritage lives on. Icelandic influence is still felt in the architecture, museums, names, and thick skin of the Islanders who call it home. Rock Island was a family retreat of the Thordarsons and is now Wisconsin’s Rock Island State Park. The only public transportation to the island is by the passenger ferry Karfi from Washington Island. Primitive camping is possible.
If Wisconsin’s Door County is a favorite for your family, we think you’ll love Lisa Middleton’s historic 1878 Door County Map featuring the penninsula’s historic lighthouses. Click image too see more detail, or to purchase!