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Step Back in Time: Hidden Valley and the birth of the Alpine Village motif
The Petoskey News-Review
From the Otsego County Herald Times 1975 Centennial Commemorative Edition
In February 1937, six ski enthusiasts from Detroit, including Don McLouth, Dave Wallace, Gordon Saunders, Lang Hubbard, Al MacCauley and Mike Murphy, came to the Gaylord area in search of snow and hills sufficient to provide good skiing in Michigan.
They found snow and hills in Gaylord and they also found a good number of businessmen and an ambitious Chamber of Commerce whose members had high hopes for this town. The Detroit men met most often with Rean Mooney, Mel Freel and Louis Thren. All of these men lived long enough to see the dream of skiing in Northern Michigan become a reality.
The downstate gentlemen were able to get options on the large tract of hills and valley originally optioned by the Kiwanis Club for a county park. The result was the formation of the Otsego Ski Club, a private club with limited membership.
The first year there was one ski tow and one employee. Stanley Dennis chopped down the trees, cleared the brush and set up the one rope tow. Mrs. Dennis became the first cook at the club in the log warming hut which was essentially the octagon shaped room in the main lodge at this time.
In 1947 John Debelack was brought to Gaylord on a three month vacation to supervise the expansion of the club. Hugh Keyes, of Bloomfield Hills, was the architect. The Alpine architecture, predominately Tyrolean, was 'borrowed' by those of the club members who had skied in Austria and Switzerland, and by John Debelack, who was born in Austria.
In the early years of the club Don McLouth suggested that the merchants, when remodeling time came, might adopt the Alpine motif in their store fronts and decorations This met with some slight response but was revived in 1962. At this time Gordon Everett, a local businessman, at his own expense, had an architect's drawing made of the 300 block on West Main Street, as it might appear in new Alpine dress.
The drawing was displayed in the window of his store for many months and caused much comment and eventually led to the adoption of "The Alpine Village" motif. The bandwagon had started to roll!
The beauty of the Alpine Village is the outgrowth of the dream of Don McLouth who inspired other men and women to make of the place they live into a thing of real beauty.
In addition to being a place of beauty and pleasure, the Otsego Ski Club at Hidden Valley is an economic asset to this community. It employs 140 during the open seasons, with a permanent staff of 40. There are probably 70 residences in Gaylord which are used during the open seasons of the club and every Hidden Valley guest is a potential customer in the Alpine Village. The annual payroll is between one-half and three-quarters of a million dollars.
Future club plans call for the expansion of cross-country skiing, the addition of a restaurant and beverage area at the pro shop, as well as the expansion next spring of Olund Lake Farms northwest of Gaylord, for a year-round children's program.
Robert Hayes is the general manager of the Otsego Ski Club and Richard Gray has been with the club for 12 years serving as comptroller for six of those years.
From the website:
Founded in 1939, Otsego Resort has been a prominent fixture in northern Michigan. The resort features meticulously groomed, family friendly ski hills, 36-holes of championship golf lead by the Tribute course, which meanders in and around the Sturgeon River Valley, and the parkland style Classic course. In addition, the resort offers a variety of lodging rooms, suites, and condominiums. There are more than 24,000 square feet of meeting space, romantic wedding spaces and the award-winning Duck Blind Grille, a multi-year winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence.
Opened in 1939, Otsego Resort is an outpost of casual elegance, near I-75 in Gaylord, Michigan.
Alan L. Gornick, a former general counsel for Ford Motor Co., bought Otsego Resort in 1955 from the estate of steel magnate, Donald McLouth. Alan turned the Otsego Resort into a year round resort by building the “Classic” golf course, a William H. Diddle designed championship track.
In 1981, Keith H. Gornick purchased the property from his father. Under the Gornicks, Otsego Resort grew from 60 rooms on 500 acres to 105 rooms on 4,000 acres.
The award winning Duck Blind Grille, which affords diners a wonderful view of the Sturgeon River Valley, is open to the public year round. The Duck Blind Grille has received the prestigious Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, for the past 2 years and is one of the only eight restaurants in Northern Michigan to receive it.
Otsego Resort increased its presence in the golf industry by adding the “The Tribute”, designed by Rick Robbins and PGA Tour Veteran, Gary Koch. This is a breathtaking golf experience spanning 1,100 acres of the Sturgeon River Valley and was recently named a Top 10 Best New Course by Sports Illustrated, a Michigan Top Ten Golf Course by Michigan Golf Magazine, and is a featured course on Microsoft’s Links 2003 Video Game.
From gaylord web site:
What’s With It? Let’s get down to the details.
Gaylord has found its niche as a destination by embracing the charming characteristics of an Alpine Village. The widespread adoption of the chalet-style architecture was first proposed after the development of the famed Otsego Ski Club, formerly Hidden Valley Resort, on the east side of town in the 1930s. Community leaders then adopted the theme throughout town, believing that Gaylord could capitalize on its snowbelt-centered location and distinguish itself architecturally from other vacation destination communities in northern Michigan. The downtown area and businesses continue to embrace the Alpine theme. Gaylord is now synonymous with the phrase “Alpine Village,” and annual festivals and activities celebrate the Swiss heritage that’s shared with its sister city in Pontresina, Switzerland.
The area was originally occupied by Native Americans, who lived, hunted and fished in the Gaylord area. The first residents were drawn to the thick woodlands, abundant waters and central location—just like today’s settlers and visitors. The name Otsego means “meeting place,” which is true today as families and friends from north, south, east and west meet in Gaylord for vacations and outdoor pursuits. First a farming community and later a lumber town, the Village of Otsego Lake was founded in 1872 and Otsego County followed in 1875. Eventually, the Village of Barnes became the county seat, which was later renamed Gaylord to honor A.S. Gaylord, an attorney for the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw Railroad. Other villages established in the county include Waters, Elmira, Vanderbilt and Johannesburg.
The Alpine theme adds a special quaintness to the downtown. Even today, city planners reference the original vision and favor the Alpine motif when reviewing plans for new construction. To learn more about Gaylord’s Alpine heritage, visit the Otsego County Historical Society in its storefront museum located at 320 W. Main Street, the site of a former cigar factory.