Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village

Looking for a place to grab a stein of beer and show off your new lederhosen? Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village Theatrical Bar and Restaurant would have been the ideal place to do so. Inspired by Pirchner's childhood home in the Austrian Alps, Alpine Village was decorated with Tyrolean décor and murals of Bavarian peasant life. Pirchner's "lusty yodelers," "om-pa-pa" entertainment, and wait staff dressed in traditional leather breeches brought a little slice of the Alps to downtown Cleveland.

Herman Pirchner immigrated to the United States from Tyrol in western Austria in 1925. Departing from his childhood home, he left behind a future of working at his father's hostelry. Upon his arrival in Cleveland, he worked two jobs, one in a pretzel factory and one as a bus boy. Then, in defiance of Prohibition, he began to brew beer with his brothers, Otto and Karl. German social clubs would sell their finished product. Pirchner himself "could not understand how a beverage as wholesome and innocent as beer could be outlawed." When the Mafia expressed interest in taking over his operation, Pirchner's brewing career came to an abrupt close. He then started a new career as a restauranteur, opening the Alpine Shore Club, formerly known as Marigold Gardens, located on East 185th Street and Lakeshore Boulevard. In the upstairs of the establishment, Pirchner ran a speakeasy. Once again, the Mafia wanted a piece of the alcohol pie. The Mafia harrassed Pirchner, setting off stink bombs in the restaurant. Pirchner fought back with the help of the safety service director, Eliot Ness. After that he was never again bothered by organized criminals. Despite this rough start, Pirchner continued on his own road to success. Undaunted by hard work and passionate about entertainment, Pirchner decided to share his Alpine spirit with Cleveland's city center.

Officially opened on November 28, 1931, Alpine Village, located at 1614 Euclid Avenue, served as a popular destination for Playhouse Square theatergoers. Earning the well-deserved distinction as an excellent host, Pirchner would sport a feather cap and show a little knee with leather shorts supported with suspenders. He would offer yodels of encouragement to his folk dancers who were dancing on a stage that would mechanically rise and lower to give audiences a better view, and led patrons in singing the comedic traditional German song "Schnitzelbank." Employing skills developed during his earlier career as a carnival strongman, Pirchner dazzled his guests with "beer hefting," carrying numerous beer steins and delivering the steins to guests by sliding across the floor on his hindquarters. The Euclid Avenue establishment also housed two annexes, the Little Café, for those looking for a quick bite to eat, and the private Eldorado Club, where media personnel and upper echelon society members could enjoy a night out.

By the mid-1950s, with downtown starting a gradual downward trend, Pirchner was beginning to lose money in the Alpine operation, but he was too "emotionally involved" to close the business. In 1961, Pirchner declared bankruptcy and the Internal Revenue Service officially padlocked the restaurant because of more than $10,000 owed in back taxes. In 1962, Alpine Village opened under new ownership but was unable to regenerate the same success the business experienced in its heyday. Unfortunately, the string of businesses to follow continued this unsuccessful trend. In 1996, the building was razed for a parking lot.

Herman Pirchner passed away in February 2009 at 101 years old. Patrons of Alpine Village were lucky to have been able to experience Pirchner's Bavarian-inspired hot spot where he will always be remembered for the passion and hard work that he dedicated to his business. The next time you are out on the town in Cleveland and have the urge to treat yourself to an iced cold stein of beer, toast to the memory of Herman Pirchner, who would have been more than happy to slide it over to your table.

Images

Menu Cover, 1943

Menu Cover, 1943

This Alpine Village menu cover evokes Pirchner's Austrian roots and casts him as the star of his own show, as it were. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Alpine Village Postcard

Alpine Village Postcard

Reverse reads: "Hail Guest! We ask not what thou art, if friend, we greet thee hand and heart, if stranger such no longer be, if foe, our love will conquer thee. - Herman Pirchner" | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Interior of Alpine Village

Interior of Alpine Village

The restaurant's coffered ceiling added to an Old-World atmosphere that set the stage for Pirchner's Alpine entertainment. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Pirchner Balances Dozens of Steins

Pirchner Balances Dozens of Steins

In 1938, Herman Pirchner set a world record for "beer hefting" by serving 55 beer steins. Surely few tables ordered such a prodigious quantity of brew, but the restaurateur regularly entertained his guests by delivering their drinks in this manner. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Pirchner's Famed Slide

Pirchner's Famed Slide

Pirchner's signature act involved balancing many beer-filled steins as he ran across the restaurant's stage, went into a slide like a baseball player, and slid off the stage as he landed on his feet again. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Herman Pirchner with Jack Dempsey, ca. 1940

Herman Pirchner with Jack Dempsey, ca. 1940

Beginning in 1934, NBC broadcast national radio shows from Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village that featured the likes of Artie Shaw, Cab Calloway, and Pearl Bailey. NBC's shows made Pirchner a national celebrity. Pirchner is seen here with guest Jack Dempsey, a famous boxer who had held the World Heavyweight Championship title for much of the 1920s before going on to star as a boxer in an MGM film and open his own eponymous restaurant in New York City. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Menu, 1943

Menu, 1943

If home cured pig's knuckles, ox tongue, jumbo frog legs, or goose liver sausage felt too risky, you could always turn to the sirloin steak or Lake Erie whitefish. Note the Office of Price Administration (OPA) statement at the bottom, which promised compliance with OPA-mandated price ceilings on commodities during World War II. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Floor Show, 1942

Floor Show, 1942

Nightly cabaret shows at Alpine Village fit in with the ambience of the Playhouse Square district. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Playhouse Square, March 1940

Playhouse Square, March 1940

The nearby theaters and department stores in the Playhouse Square district assured a steady flow of business for Alpine Village into the postwar years. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Snow White Mural at Alpine Village

Snow White Mural at Alpine Village

This mural was one of two outside the entrance to Alpine Village. | Source: Cleveland Memory, Cleveland State University Special Collections View File Details Page

Alpine Village Mural at LCCC, 2014

Alpine Village Mural at LCCC, 2014

Herman Pirchner donated a collection of public art from Alpine Village to Lorain County Community College. The colorful murals such as this one are visible on campus today. | Creator: Marilyn Miller View File Details Page

Tyrolean Dancers at LCCC, 2014

Tyrolean Dancers at LCCC, 2014

This pair of bronze Tyrolean dancers adorns a building on the campus of Lorain County Community College. Herman Pirchner donated these and other artworks from his Alpine Village restaurant. | Creator: Marilyn Miller View File Details Page

Audio

A Beer Lounge

Melvin Rose of Rose Iron Works describes family visits to Alpine Village View File Details Page

Atmosphere At Alpine Village

William Barrow, Director of the Cleveland Memory Project relates stories about Alpine Village View File Details Page

From Austria To Cleveland

Hermann Pirchner, Jr. talks about his father's journey from Austria to Cleveland where he eventually founded the Alpine Village Theatrical Bar and Restaurant View File Details Page

Video

Newsreel: World Record 55 Mugs of Beer Served, 1938

In this 1938 Universal newsreel, Alpine Village's Herman Pirchner sets a world record by serving 55 mugs of beer at once. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Marilyn Miller, “Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 20, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/79.
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story