A little piece of old Door County – think the rustic inn from “Dirty Dancing,” not the sprawling cookie-cutter condo developments that have been built in recent years – has found a new owner who plans to reopen and preserve the historic property.
The new owner of the Alpine Resort and Golf Course in Egg Harbor, which had been in one-family ownership for a century, is already renovating the clubhouse and grooming the golf course with the goal of beginning play by Memorial Day, said Jacinda Duffin of True North Real Estate, who represented the buyer over the nearly year-long purchase process.
The golf course and resort had remained closed in 2020 due to the coronavirus and while “perfunctory grooming of the grounds” was performed, the course needs work to return it to playable condition. Even before the sale was completed, the buyer purchased new equipment and had groundskeepers at work on the course. Duffin said she expects the Alpine will have 18 holes open for play this year and maybe an additional nine later.
Duffin said she was not at liberty to reveal the identity of the buyer, who she said is keeping a low profile for now.
“It’s just an average guy, it’s not a celebrity,” she said, but someone who has a history with the beloved resort and wanted to preserve that going forward.
“He just has a real affection, like many people do, for the Alpine,” she said.
According to the Door County Pulse, when it opened in 1922 the Alpine Resort was the first tourism-focused business in Egg Harbor. For a century it had been owned by the Bertschinger family, which decided to list the property in 2018 when the ownership group included about two dozen siblings, cousins and other relatives. The sprawling ownership arrangement, not to mention the forced closing of the resort in 2020, made the sale more complex, Duffin said, but finally the successful sale will assuage fears of many local residents that the historic property would remain closed or the property sold off for new development.
“It wasn’t an easy process,” she said. “There were 29 sellers, I think eight attorneys (but) the whole time the buyer’s intent never wavered.
“His intention is to run the Alpine as it’s been run, as a resort. It’s a gift to the community, I think … and this is the perfect buyer because he understands what it means. It’s a purchase of love.”
In a statement announcing the sale, the Bertschinger family called it “a hard decision to sell. The Alpine has a long, rich history and we appreciate how the new owners plan to honor our family’s legacy.”
The Alpine was developed in 1921 by brothers John and Paul Bertschinger, who fell in love with the property’s beautiful setting on the shore of Green Bay and saw its potential for tourism. They briefly sold the property but quickly regretted the decision and bought it back, opening doors to visitors in 1922.
In its early decades the Alpine was a classic old-style resort operated under the American Plan, which included three meals each day in the Alpine’s lodge dining rooms. In addition to lodge rooms, the resort offered a number of small cabins. In the very early years, before Door County roads were improved, many guests would travel by steamship to Sturgeon Bay and make their way up the peninsula, while later some were chauffeured from their homes in Chicago. Guests would come for a week or two at a time, and some for much longer stays, and many were return visitors who would annually enjoy their Door County stay with the Bertschinger family. Each day included activities for children and adults, and nightly dances were held in the main lodge.
At its peak, the resort offered 36 holes of golf, but some of the golf course property was later sold off and 27 holes were available for play. For many years the course was known for an electric tram that, for a quarter, would lift golfers from holes on the lower level to holes on top of a steep bluff that offered stunning views of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.
Duffin said the new owner will do some modernization of the property but still retain the style and feel of the original Alpine, which initial public reaction to the sale suggests will be a popular step. While the course will reopen soon, the main lodge and cottages will remain closed for now while renovations take place, but the new owner said in a statement the goal is “to create the next 100 years of memories.”
After so much new development in Door County in recent years, Duffin said many of her clients from outside the area as well as local residents have called to thank her for arranging a transition that will protect the property’s tradition.
“Oh my god, it’s crazy,” she said of reaction so far. “Sell a property like this and for the next three days my phone has been blowing up. Door County visitors and locals don’t want to see the Alpine change very much. There’s just nothing like it in our county, and there’s not many left (anywhere else).”