In July of 1904, August Zahn made the journey from Germany to join his uncle Albert (Bird) Zahn in Baileys Harbor. Albert had emigrated to the Door peninsula some years earlier, and had written to his young nephew about the opportunity that existed here for a young blacksmith such as himself. With about a month of hard work, Albert and August built the smithy that still stands next to the Zahn House, and August had his forge up and running by the end of that summer. Responding to homesickness for his family and his native land, August began construction in 1905 of a replica of the home and blacksmith shop he had grown up in. What is now the Zahn House took August 7 years to build. By the time he occupied the building in 1912, he had a young family including a wife, Martha, and son, Walter. Although he had created the building to serve as both residence and forge, he never moved the smithy and it remains in the original blacksmith shop.
August and Martha raised two sons and a daughter in their sturdy home, and Walter ultimately adopted both his father’s career and residence. Walter married Estelle and they raised two daughters. The first generation of Zahns lived in only the extreme North end of the ground floor while the rest of the building served as a storage barn. In the 1950s, Walter and Estelle remodeled the North end of the second floor above their apartment into a weekly tourist rental, and converted the street side of the ground floor into a shop for Estelle to sell aprons, doilies, and other sewn goods produced by herself and her friends over the winter months.
In early 1994, Walter and Estelle sold both the house and the blacksmith shop to Dave Haidlinger and Kevin Stoerr. Dave left his corporate job in Milwaukee and launched the transition of the Zahn’s residence into that of a bed and breakfast called the Blacksmith Inn. Two years later, Dave and Kevin sold the fledgling inn to Joan Holliday and Bryan Nelson, who continue to own and operate it with their son, Sam. Joan and Bryan were able to complete the purchase of the lot to the North of the parking lot and begin construction in September 1999 of the Harbor House, which welcomed its first guests in July of 2000. The Orchard House across the street from the Inn was acquired in autumn of 2001, and was opened as a vacation rental house the following summer. Joan, Bryan, Sam, and staff are delighted that others can share in the unparalleled history and setting that comprises the Blacksmith Inn on the Shore to this day!