Home : Ephraim History

A Brief History of Ephraim                            


The Village of Ephraim's cultural and historical heritage is a blend of Moravian culture and Norwegian ethnic heritage. Founded as a Moravian religious community in 1853 by the Reverend Andreas Iverson, many of the historic buildings - The Moravian Church (1858), the Pioneer Schoolhouse (1880), the Anderson Store (1858) and warehouse, as well as the Anderson Barn (1880) and eight homes in the Village - are more than a century old and all still in use.

The Ephraim Foundation, established in 1949, shares the goal with Ephraim's government to preserve and foster preservation of historical monuments, buildings, structures, sites and documents and to foster the development of cultural services for residents and guests alike.  Local government, along with the Ephraim Business Council, is concerned with coordinating and promoting commercial interests in this tourist village, without sacrificing the natural beauty that attracts visitors to Ephraim.

The Village is governed by a Village President and four additional Trustees, all elected positions with two-year terms. The president serves as Chair of the Plan Committee and directs the budget process. The Trustees also serve on committees, which include Coastal Management, Community Protection, Historic Preservation, Wastewater and Physical Facilities & Utilities. Special committees have been established such as The Board of Appeals, Airport and Library and are staffed by community volunteers. In 2004 we began the government-mandated Smart Growth comprehensive plan, an expansion of our 1998 Comprehensive Plan, this has finally been completed and our new comprehensive plan can be viewed on this site.

To ensure that Ephraim remains a historic and beautiful location, Ephraim's zoning is admittedly strict and is continually refined to preserve the distinctive atmosphere and character of the Village. Ephraim has an extensive Historic District with additional zoning regulations to preserve historic structures.

The Village Hall was built in 1926 and for many years was the site of the Ephraim Post Office, barber shop, movie theater, basketball court and youth group meeting place, and Library. A new Library addition was built in the early 60's and the barber shop converted into a kitchen. The Post Office moved to its Cedar Street location in the late 70's.  The Hall was renovated and updated in 2003.

Ephraim owned the first motorized fire truck in Northern Door County, a 1934 Ford which the Village still owns. The old fire station built in 1934 on Highway 42 was designed by noted architect William Bernhard (as were the Village Hall, current Village Offices, and Visitors' Center).  The old station served until the new one was built in 1990.

Ephraim established the first zoning ordinances in Door County, in 1948. Discharge of weapons has been prohibited since the beginning, as well as the rule of no liquor manufacturing or sales within the Village. We're the only community in all of Wisconsin that is dry. There have been two referendums to ask the citizens if they wanted liquor allowed to be sold within the Village—in 1934 and in 1992 - 59% voted no in 1934, that increased to 74 % voting no in 1992. Today Ephraim remains dry.

In 1949 we joined with Gibraltar in establishing the Ephraim-Gibraltar Airport in Fish Creek.  While the Airport has grown modestly since 1949, it continues to be a valuable link between our community and our visitors.

Ephraim's bathing beach was originally established in 1934 and later expanded to its present size. In the last decade, Ephraim has acquired and developed park and recreation land including – the park next to the Village Hall, a park across from the Hall, and a water-side park across from Wilson's restaurant.  A treasured wetland almost destroyed by a developer was purchased by the Village and is slowly regenerating and has been turned into a Wetland Preserve. Most recently, the property that held the original Door Way Motel built in 1962 (renamed the Harborside) was purchased and has been turned into a beautiful water view park with a Gazebo in which concerts occur during the summer months.