The storied landmark is poised for history in the remaking
By Julie Horner
Peering through a jagged window, the bare bulbs of workmen’s shop lights illuminate what seem like bones and sinew – open studs and joists – which frame little now but bareness and dust. The fireplace where the lounge used to be stands alone without walls. While stairs and banisters remain as anchors, the remainder is mere hull with views into the next room or up to the rafters. Fresh lumber is stacked next to salvaged architectural elements. Outside, gable decorations sport gaps like broken teeth. Bottle shards, antique tools, and rusted children’s toys, once clever décor along the building’s foundation, are tortured remnants in crumbling concrete collage. The eye is drawn to a missing panel of stained glass; it was never replaced after the night one of the more colorful patrons started a fight over not having mustard for the bar pretzels. She was summarily escorted out but delivered a parting blow by throwing a rock through the fine old window.
The ghosts of those who have breathed life into this place have fled to the Brook Room where filtered light still flirts among the faded underpinnings. The Brookdale remains breathtakingly beautiful behind her dirt-streaked glass and cobwebs. Like a dark bride in ripped lace she bides, her house empty, awaiting new love and purpose.
New owner, Pravin Patel, says, “It had been declining for a long time. There is about 60 years of deferred maintenance.” And everything is taking longer than anticipated. “Please don’t lose your patience. It’s not as easy as it seems.” The permitting and county processes, deciding what can be salvaged and what must be replaced. And everything must be rebuilt for safety. “We’ll get it open,” Patel promises.
He can hardly wait to open the first phase, which will include the renovated 46-room hotel separate from the Lodge, a full service local market “where families can come and do shopping,” and a coffee shop to rival the old Pancake House and Grill. “Pablo was leasing it years ago until it was shut down. The community tells me Pablo had the best pancakes.” Fresh paint and new windows are finishing touches and the building could be open as soon as the end of this summer.
Next on the list is the hotel lobby and a new sports bar. After that, the Brook Room and Fireside Lounge. “Things are coming along…the good days outweigh the bad days.”
Also on the list, the return of the cherished mural. “The original James Dean was up there for years and years, but one of the messes Sanjiv Kakkar, the former owner, made was painting over James Dean…out of his wild imagination. It was low quality, a joke. The community was in an uproar over it.” Patel made it clear in a town hall meeting: “We are going to replace the mural in high quality.”
The canvas has been prepared. Patel joined forces with Maryanne Porter of Brookdale Lodge Mysteries Explored and owner of Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters/Haunted Tours to find the perfect muralist. An ad was placed on Craigslist. “The mural is a huge deal not only to the community but also to the history of the Brookdale Lodge,” Porter says. “I mean, this is not something that we are taking lightly – this will be a fixated iconic portrait which represents the Lodge and San Lorenzo Valley for generations to come. Mr. Patel is not only creating new history but he is also trying to preserve the old.”
The process to find a muralist has been a lengthy one for its applicants. The individuals sought for serious consideration were requested to submit a sketch of James Dean to determine their artistic ability and to see how the artist’s vision meshed with the community’s vision. “Each artist has a different style, so it was important to find someone who shared a similar vision.” The right artist should also have a relationship to the Lodge. “We wanted a muralist who had some memory or connection, not just someone who looked at it as a job.” And they wanted someone local. “It was important to Mr. Patel to find a local artist. Keeping our history in our community. I can’t wait for the project to be completed and the Lodge’s new history to begin!”
“I love the community input,” Patel says. “This mural thing is exactly what I mean. Let’s get a local artist in here. A homegrown Santa Cruz artist to put his name on it…it becomes a legacy.”
The top three finalists have been chosen. “The next step we will be meeting up with the county and then moving forward to determine who will be selected as the next muralist for the Brookdale Lodge,” Porter says.
“You’ve got to remember, this is history in the remaking. The Lodge has been robbed and raped over the years…vandals and the former owners took all this stuff. I want to be known 100 years from now as the gentleman who gave it CPR…I revitalized it! I’m trying to do something good here.”