By Michele Murphy
The historic Brookdale Lodge is known for its lore, magic, and mystery. The resort complex, having gone through multiple owners, renovations, fires, and the pandemic, remains a jewel of the San Lorenzo Valley.
The Lodge opened in 1870 as the headquarters for Brookdale’s Grover Lumber Mill. In 1920 it became a hotel. In 1922 Dr. F.K. Camp hired Horace Cotton, the renowned San Francisco landscape architect, to design the iconic dining room around Clear Creek. Cotton kept intact the stream’s boulders, ferns, and moss-covered banks.
The resort was popular with celebrities and politicos. Herbert Hoover was a frequent visitor, as were Joan Crawford, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Mae West. Patrons in the Mermaid Room bar watched swimmers through an observation window below the pool. A tunnel ran underneath Highway 9 where bootleggers covertly delivered booze during prohibition. Known for first-rate entertainment, the Brookdale Lodge also featured the top big bands of the era.
In the 40s and 50s, mobsters had the run of the Lodge, and their rumored crimes form the early basis for stories of hauntings. The following decades offered up a variety of new owners, renovations, tragic drownings, and more paranormal activities. The hotel has been featured on Ghost Adventures, America’s Haunted Houses, and The Real Ghost Hunters.
Sitting idle from 2007 to 2013, locals had lost hope for the shuttered, crumbling, and abandoned property.
Then a rumor went around that The Brookdale Lodge had been sold and might be restored and reopened. It was true! Local hoteliers Pravin and Naina Patel purchased the property, and a massive multi-phase restoration project has been underway ever since. Pravin said, “It was like a war zone when we took over, hazards around every corner.” Decades of deferred maintenance and damage caused by vandals left the place in shambles. Pravin thought it had great potential, and Naina asked, “Where are you going to start?”
The hoteliers’ first instinct was to start on the rooms, gutting and updating the plumbing and electrical systems, making everything safe and to code while creating luxurious accommodations. Next, the retail stores that line the parking lot facing the lobby were remodeled. Currently there is a small convenience market, a gift shop, laundromat, and the fabulous Brookdale Diner. Pablo Velasco, the beloved cook who ran the diner years ago, has returned to serve up his famous pancakes. The diner is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Phase 1 also included the lobby and lounge where indoor music is back on the calendar. The outdoor beer garden features live music with both local and touring bands.
Chas Crowder, a 20-year veteran booking agent, is managing the entertainment. Raised on music in Memphis, Chas knows how to spot talent and brings it to people who are hungry for it.
Currently underway, Phase 2 includes the resurrection of the Fireside Lounge, which runs alongside the famous Mermaid Room. It will be a space for upscale entertainment, aquatic mermaid shows, and larger concerts. The pool will also be completely refurbished as will the dazzling Brook Room. After a year of pandemic-related setbacks, and a close call during last summer’s fires, the completion of Phase 2 is delayed, but only until next summer.
For Pravin, the Brookdale Lodge is more than a business venture, it’s a passion, and he wants the community to be involved with its rebirth, saying “It belongs to everyone in SLV.” He plans to host a town hall meeting to gather community input on the remodel of the Fireside Lounge and is hoping that people will bring old photos, tell stories, and share opinions on how it can be recreated.
Incrementally exciting, hauntingly intriguing. And hopefully soon, we’ll see you at The Famous Brookdale Lodge. brookdalelodge.com
Michele Murphy is a writer and singer-songwriter who has lived in the Santa Cruz area since 2005. An avid music lover, she both a performer and a fan, with her finger on the pulse of what is happening in the local music scene in Santa Cruz County.
Featured photo Outdoor Dining at Brookdale Lodge by Mary Andersen