Step back into Swiss history at Sugarcreek’s Alpine Hills Museum

Step back into Swiss history at Sugarcreek’s Alpine Hills Museum

Image Credit: Dave Mast

A couple years ago, Becky Detwiler came to Sugarcreek with the hope of developing a career. Struggling to find work in 2018, she began watering the flowers near the downtown area for the village and became known as the Flower Girl of Sugarcreek.

When doing her duty, she said she was diligent to wave to those visiting the village, presenting a warm and friendly attitude she hoped would make an impact. In 2020 she was invited to work in Alpine Hills Museum and became the full-time curator in April 2021. She said one caveat was she still got to water the flowers.

Since that time Detwiler has been promoting Sugarcreek and the museum the only way she knows how.

“I go full-bore. That’s a term I always heard growing up back on the farm when I was young,” Detwiler said. “I want to do everything I can to bring exposure to our museum and to the village. I can sense the momentum really swinging our way, and people are excited about what is happening here in Sugarcreek.”

Her passion is contagious, and she is fervent about developing and perfecting what the museum has to offer, both to locals and visitors.

“This museum is so awesome for a village of 2,200 people,” Detwiler said. “The number of artifacts that are here is stunning, and people often don’t realize that we have three full floors of displays.”

The current Alpine Hills Museum building was an old warehouse donated to the local historical society in 1977 by local business owner Ransom Andreas. Andreas wanted to give back to the community that had supported him and his family during their devastating store fire at Andreas Furniture in 1974.

The village began reconstructing the facing of the building to give it a Swiss appeal, and the Amish Kitchen and cheese house displays were the first two displays the historical society built in the building.

The initial curators for the building, which also serves as an information center for the village, were Les and Pat Kaser, who served in that capacity from 1982-2008.

As time passed, the more unique displays and memorabilia were added to the museum, and it soon grew to fill three floors, 7,000 square feet packed with pieces of history that were near and dear to the hearts of those who called Little Switzerland in Ohio their home.

Throughout the three floors are exhibits and memorabilia devoted to telling the story of the Swiss history and the developments of Sugarcreek and its people. A giant cheesemaker’s vat, Swiss outfits, the Amish kitchen room and six interactive displays walk visitors through the many pieces of history in each display of the self-guided tour.

The second floor features uniforms and memorabilia from soldiers who served their country in many different wars. Local newspaper, The Budget, is highlighted as one of the community’s longstanding promoters for more than one century.

There also is a great deal of local history, from old doctor and dentistry tools to a music and technology room that features an old giant phonograph, plenty of old instruments, several Swiss alphorns and the newest addition, an old switchboard that looks like it’s straight out of Mayberry, RFD.

The basement features many fascinating items, like a Goshen Dairy Ice Cream bicycle truck, an old surrey, an Excelsior View Co. cart, an old photo booth, a miniature Baker threshing machine, a large-wheel bicycle and a room dedicated to the old Sugarcreek Fire Department.

Detwiler said it is basically Sugarcreek’s history condensed into three floors.

Detwiler said she is an organizational freak, and not long after she took over as curator, she began exploring the many boxes and shelves of memorabilia packed away in the upstairs storage area.

She said the incredible amount of history she found packed away needed to find a home in the display, so she went about reorganizing.

“I went through and made some things a high priority, like all the military items from men who had served their country faithfully to all types of Swiss heritage memorabilia, and there were plenty of photos,” Detwiler said.

She began making sections, consolidating the Swiss Festival items, the military memorabilia, clothing and many other specific sections she wanted to highlight.

“It was so much that I couldn’t ever display it all,” Detwiler said. “I’ve been processing and trying to reach out to community people to figure out what we need to display.”

The one thing Detwiler was committed to was promoting the Swiss heritage of the community because that is what she feels should be represented and is the most interesting to people.

“I don’t feel like we celebrate Swiss National Day and our Swiss heritage quite the way we should because of the important role it plays in the village’s history,” Detwiler said. “I don’t want us to lose our Swiss appeal.”

Detwiler said the museum is a hidden gem among the many different tourism stops in Amish Country, and people have an opportunity to experience a piece of history that provides great insight into the people and Swiss nationality of the area.

“We have something in our museum that we as a community can be proud of, that we can share with those who visit so they can gain some insight into who we are as a people,” Detwiler said. “I think we have this gem of a museum that a lot of local people and visitors have never seen or experienced. I want to change that by making this a must-see when people stop in and realize exactly how much Swiss and local history we have on our three floors.”

With free admission to the museum, Detwiler said she often stands outside on the sidewalk and invites passers-by to come in and experience the history inside the museum.

“Once people step inside, they are awakened to all of the neat history inside,” Detwiler said.

The Alpine Hills Museum and Information Center is located at 106 W. Main St. in Sugarcreek and is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For group tours or questions, call 330-852-4113. Visit online at www.alpinehillssugarcreek.com.