Stretching along the base of Fish Creek Bluff fronting Green Bay, Cottage Row is lined with early-twentieth-century summer houses. As early as the 1880s, vacationers came by steamship (later railroad) to Fish Creek, where they spent summers at local resorts. From 1897 through the 1920s, many families built their own so-called cottages on the bay’s cool shoreline. During the week, the men often returned to their work in the cities, leaving behind a community of mostly women and children.
It was a woman who, more than anyone, created Cottage Row’s Rustic ambiance. Elizabeth Chittenden Crunden of St. Louis summered with her husband Frank in their 1898 house at 9353 Cottage Row. She urged her neighbors to use local stone to build low walls, benches, stairs, and grottoes, thus tying the otherwise eclectic collection of houses to the earth and to each other. She even purchased a quarry outside Fish Creek and hired mason Henry Eckert to realize her vision. Eckert’s stonework accents can be seen throughout the area.
The Attie Leightner House (c. 1917; 9363 Cottage Row) has a driveway edged with stone walls, reflecting Crunden’s advice. Numerous additions over the years have led locals to dub this rambling two-story, side-gabled house “Biltover.” Nonetheless, it retains its original Craftsman character in the stone foundation, clapboard walls, exposed rafter tails, multipaned casement windows, and French doors. A screened porch with a full view of the bay extends across the front of the house. “Graycliffe,” as Grant and Ida Fitch of Milwaukee named their vacation house at 9335 Cottage Row, began life as a barn on the site of present-day Peninsula State Park. Built in 1890, it was refashioned in 1910 into a one-and-a-half-story, side-gabled summer cottage. It retains its barnlike exterior of hewn logs, dovetailed at the corners, but shingles now cover the gable ends, multipaned casement windows pierce the walls, and a large screen porch spans the front of the building, facing the bay.
One of the more formal residences is the Dana and Marie Corbin House (c. 1929; 9177 Cottage Row), built for a family from Chicago. The nostalgic Tudor Revival house features a steeply pitched cross-gabled roof, uncoursed stone cladding, and false half-timbering, but the two-door garage attached to the front of the house reveals its modernity. After World War II, the automobile changed the nature of vacationing in Fish Creek. Visitors came for short trips, staying at motels and cabin courts rather than at resort hotels or family-owned cottages.