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looking for the old door

Looking for the Old Door

Norbert Blei

This was going to be just another “Good Morning (or Afternoon or Evening) Door County” to send around with a photo of a local image (time and place)…late afternoon, hovering around cocktail hour, almost the end of the day, the sun just right…the character in the picture at rest, contemplating many things, including a possible toast to the moment with a good glass of wine in or near hand.

The old door he sought had just opened. He was back in place again (summer of 2012), a favorite Door County get-away, or more accurately “return to”…another one of those “best kept secrets” he tried to keep to himself. Only now, this moment, he was thinking…there are times, circumstances when he should not, could not be selfish about such disclosures, especially the present times as the county slowly but surely drifts away from what it once was to what its becoming, an upscale suburbia of manicured lawns, paved driveways, stone-pillared entrances, gated communities, lights to chase the night away…a setting no longer real, remote, rural, quiet, with a touch of the wild to the interior, and serenity to no end along its shorelines.

So here he was now where he wanted to be, almost no one around at the beginning of a late summer week, the season dwindling, enjoying the peace and quiet of one of the last of the old Door resorts…trying to keep it all to himself.

Whether he came here for just a drink or dinner, his ritual usually began at the Hof Bar/Pub (which reminded him a little of what the old Top Deck used to be at Gordon Lodge)…with a brandy old fashioned or glass of red wine in hand…and then outside to meander the grounds along the waterfront…then sit in peace and quiet out there a while, just soaking it all in…eventually making his way to the large screened porch and plunking himself into one of the many comfortable rocking chairs, where he could easily rock himself into the sunset or the night.

He still can’t believe, after all these years, (celebrating its 90th season this year!) that this place isn’t better known, more packed with guests, though he is uncertain how many of the rooms, cottages and guest houses may be occupied at the moment or throughout the summer. The prices are certainly reasonable. Plus you have THIS, he says to himself, taking in the incredible view. All THIS plus lodging, plus a restaurant with a good menu, with even a touch of the Germanic–serving sauerbraten and weiner schnitzel…how likely to find THAT anywhere else in Door? Then there’s the music, including an ‘oompha pa, pa’ little band that plays in the dining room most evenings…other music too…and a sand beach, a heated pool, tennis, bikes, fishing and rowboats, basketball and shuffleboard, game room and snack bar…a picnic area…a 36-hole golf course…

He takes his glass of wine and wanders around a little more, from building to building…from restaurant (only a handful of diners) to room after room, each more fascinating than the other, each with its own feeling and brand of the past.

How long can a place like this survive given the onslaught of high-end restaurants in the county, modern and expensive motels, condos, cottages? Not to mention (the real kicker for the man who has kept this place for himself for too many years): the possibility of this place closing…the resort torn town…all the grounds turned into another condos anonymous, unending?

With that foremost in mind, with that disrupting his quiet afternoon of just being there, here, back again in place this summer of 2012, with his glass of wine in hand, relishing the memory of what-used-to-be, but slowly invaded by dark thoughts of what-might-become, he decided now is the moment to let go of another one of Door County’s best kept secrets.

He decided once again, that one of these summers, especially one as crazy, hot, humid, overcrowded as this one…one of these months, July or August, when things get so overwhelming for him…too many phone calls, too many visitors, too many clogged roads, too long a wait in restaurants, too many relatives, old friends, new friends, students, writers, artists…wanting to do breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee or a drink…day after day (all wonderful and worth every moment of precious time, and he just can’t say no to any of them)…one of these summers he will pick up the phone, dial (920) 868-3000 or 1.888 281.8128…pack a small suitcase, a shopping bag of about a dozen books, his notebooks and laptop…get in his car, drive to 7715 Horseshoe Bay Road, Highway G., Egg Harbor, and rent a room at the Alpine Resort ( for at least a week–and never once leave the grounds. Just disappear, out of Door, in Door for a week or two.

Where the hell’s Blei?

Nobody knows.


  1. Marty Robinson

    Norb, You introduced Mary and me to the Alpine several years ago. It was like walking into a time warp of six or seven decades. I remember the serenity of the place, indoors and out, the common rooms filled with artifacts any museum would be proud to display, and yes, the excellent Wiener Schnitzel dinner. We must revisit it next time we come up.

  2. Mary Ann

    Sure do love this Norb. And it makes me want to make reservations right now!!! Thanks, as always.

  3. David Dix

    OK, am going with wife, Dee. Will tell them Norblei sent me.

  4. Patt Clark

    Door County has been a favorite for about forty years. Appreciate the sharing–so enjoy reading “your words.”

  5. Tom's Jude

    Thanks for this engaging reflection. After all the years coming to Door I stopped at the Alpine last year on my way home. I felt like I had walked into the past. I could imagine families and friends sharing a good meal; quests relishing quiet time on the porch; children and adults alike enjoying outdoor activities that require no electricity, batteries, etc.
    Tom would appreciate your “out of Door, in Door” dream. He did that on his morning trips to the “small lake.”

  6. Richard W. Gorski

    I also remember another area that has changed. Remember 26th and Pulaski on a Saturday morning at the Atlantic Theater with a belly full of popcorn, watching bugs bunny or the road runner (30 of them) followed by Lash Larue and Gabby Hays westerns…if my memory serves me right after all these years. We were young then. Wonder if anything like that exists anymore?

  7. carol gresko

    The Gresko family vacationed at the Alpine Resort from 1949 until 1972 when I moved here permanently (due to the grand experiences at the Alpine) and purchased a home in Ephraim. What killed the spirit at the Alpine is that they tried to “get modern” …… they had a great thing going with the “resort” plan, wonderful food, linen table cloths, wholesome activities for the whole family, etc, etc, it was like being on a movie set ……and then they put a swimming pool right in the middle of the driveway!

  8. Steve

    When we were kids our family used to drive from Chicago to Montana and stay at the Averill’s Dude Ranch on Flathead Lake.
    Alpine reminds me alot of it. It is nestled back out of the way. It makes you think you’ve gone back in time. I like its old fashioned sensibility and the Hof restaurant is excellent for Breakfast and Dinner.

    As a tradition our family had gone to the Alpine between 2001-2008 and I think of no better play to lose yourselfthan with this 1920’s resort. We are going up this weekend to celebrate our 20 year anniversary and look forward to losing ourselves once again.

  9. lou mcwilliams

    hiya. a couple of your books live on my shelf, our family, now numbering 16, live in dc for a week every other summer and howard orr used to talk about you. i’ve made a half-hearted attempt to meet you when i’ve been there but i’m easily swayed and it sounds like that’s just fine with you! i don’t know how you stand it there in july and august. my husband’s family has been going to dc since the 60’s when they had a small cherry orchard and sold cherries at their church in glen ellyn. howard was my uncle, and i miss him very much. i enjoy your writing and hope to pick up another book this summer. i think i like neighborhood the best. thanks! lou mcwilliams

  10. Bob Habes

    Hi, I grew up at 1612 S 58th Ct. I just secured some cream sausage through the details given in your book. Thanks, it’s been missing from the table for 50 years. Last year I went to the Burnham School 50th year class reunion. While 10 have passed, still nearly 50 of the graduating 97 came to the affair. The feeling that night was one of familiarity and comfort. Someone told me that Central Snack had relocated south somewhere. Do you know where? I’m looking into it. Bob Hruby, Ken Fencl, and I had our first pizza there the night of Burnham graduation.

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