National/State Register Listing Name:
National Register Listing Date: 1985-03-27
State Register Listing Date: 1989-01-01
National Register Multiple Property Name: Multiple Resources of Ephraim
Additional Information: SITE CONTAINS LARGE FRAME HOTEL AND SEVERAL SMALL COTTAGES. The south cottage, built near the turn of the century, was originally part of Martin Oleson's house. The north cottage was built late in 1915. Southeast of the hotel is a one story board and batten shed which was built as a workroom in the 1880s. Behind the hotel are two outbuildings which were built in the 1910s; the Oleson family lived here when the hotel was full. A one story porch with turned wood columns and a plain wood balustrade spanning the entire front of the hotel was built in 1908. The south section was also added to the hotel in 1908 while the north section was added in 1926. A photograph dated 1913 shows the north portion of the hotel as being only one story tall but otherwise similar to the present configuration. In the 1890s, Ephraim was starting to attract summer visitors seeking an escape from the hot and crowded cities located south of Door County. At first there were only a few visitors and no hotels. Village residents, many fishermen and lumberman by trade, would rent out rooms of their houses and cook for the summer visitors. By 1896 the county newspaper was lamenting that "Ephraim needs a good hotel". Four years later as both the fishing and lumbering industries continued to decline, the tourist industry had increased to the extent that inquiries for accomodations for the summer were being made in the early springtime. Schooners now brought passengers laden with trunks for extended stays. It was during this time that many hotels and cottages were built and among them was Martin Oleson's (Olson) Hillside Hotel. Olson emigrated from Tonjem, Norway to Quebec, Canada in 1866 and arrived in Ephraim in 1867. A shormaker in Norway, he continued in this profession, as well as farming and fishing, in Ephraim where he purchased a single family home, built in the 1860s, that would later become the Hillside. The hotel began around 1900, probably just as rooms rented from the family house, and continued to expand and develop as tourism increased. Not until the 1910 U.S. Census is an Olson listed as a "hotel keeper", and then it was Mrs. Olson. Ephraim had three hotels in 1910 and seven hotels in 1917, by which time the Hillside had expanded to accomodate 40 people. Ole M. Olson, Martin's son, was for many years the proprietor of the hotel and developed it to the extent that when he died in 1921, the county newspaper noted that "as proprietor of the Hillside Hotel he was widely known throughout the state, having entertained summer guests from many of the cities of this adjacent states". Hotel owners such as Olson were also involved in the civic life of Ephraim. Ole M. Olson was elected Village Supervisor in the first village election and was later on the County Board of Supervisors. His son Seldon, who ran the hotel until 1969, was also on the County Board of Supervisors and was the village President for four years in the 1930s during which time the fire department was established and street lighting was installed. The Olson Family sold the hotel in 1969, but it continues to operate as a summer resort.
Resurveyed March 2014: subsequent changes include the replacement of all visible windows in the hotel, the addition of a second story to the hotel porch, and the replacement of the hotel chimneys.
Bibliographic References: DOOR COUNTY ADVOCATE, 6/27/1967.
Door County Advocate 11/4/1909.
Interview with David McNeil, manager of the hotel, 6/1984.
Interview with David McNeil, manager of the hotel, 7/1984.
Iverson, A.M., "A Brief Account of the Activity (Its Commencement and Continuation since 1849) of the Evangelical Moravian Church Among the Scandinavians in Wisconsin". (Written between 1896-1899 and translated from the Norwegian by Jno. Boler, 1926).
1870-1910 census data.
Door County Advocate 3/1908.
Door County Advocate 4/30/1908.
Door County Advocate 12/31/1908.
The Peninsula 7/1948.
Dennis, Landt, "Wisconsin's Door into Summer" in Town and Country (8/1981).
Door County Advocate 8/8/1896.
Door County Advocate 4/28/1900.
Door County Advocate 5/26/1900.
"Ephraim Historic Walk" pamphlet (1983).
Door County News 9/29/1921.
Door County Advocate 8/1/1910.
Holand, Hjalmer Rued, History of Door County, Wisconsin, Vols. 1 and 2 (Chicago, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1917).
Door County Advocate 9/23/1921.
Door County Advocate 10/24/1919.
Ellis, William S., "Wisconsin's Door Peninsula" National Geographic, 3/1969.
Door County Advocate 11/11/1915.
Door County Advocate 12/9/1915.