The Brookdale Inn on the Road to Resurrection

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.

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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.

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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.”

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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Felton Public Library – A Design from the Heart

Architect Teall Messer invests his heart in a project long on the drawing board

By Julie Horner

Willows, oaks, and a few cottonwoods jostle and whisper along the banks of Bull Creek as it flows – controlled now by a culvert to mitigate flooding – under city streets to the San Lorenzo River in downtown Felton. On its way, the creek slices through a narrow slip of native land next to the Felton Post Office – soon to be home for the new Felton Public Library and Outdoor Discovery Park.

Soquel-based architect, Teall Messer, is the artist behind the building design, which reflects community vision while holding to exacting legal and environmental parameters. His work is highly sought after in Santa Cruz County – he has six to eight active design projects going at a time – but he says his heart is invested in the library. Long a member of Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Library, he has been called upon over the years to design other library projects, including converting an old restaurant in Live Oak into an interim library, and upgrading the historic Garfield Library in Santa Cruz. The Felton Library project is a longtime dream. “This has been on my drafting board for 10 years.”

“Pat and Mike Verutti wanted to donate the Felton parcel adjacent to the post office 16 years ago, but the library system didn’t want to take ownership of the land until they had the money to build,” Messer said. Measure S, which passed last June, gave them the funding. “Bruce McPherson made sure the funding was on top of the list.” And Felton Library Friends have been advocating all along. “They helped support the project and pushed to get the initial plans drawn. If it wasn’t for them it wouldn’t have happened.”

In 16 years, the trees have gotten bigger, which forced the building plan into riparian habitat. Messer also had to plan around the 100-year floodplain that just misses the building site. A town plan drawn up in the 1980s helped guide the exterior design. “I had to try to come up with a building that will fit into Felton. It had to have a rural feeling, almost a barn-like,” he said. “At 9600 square feet, it’s not giant but I think it will be big enough…we took all the space we could.”

Working closely with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Army Corps of Engineers, and California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project required obtaining permits from each agency. “We’re still in the process of submitting them.” The projected deadline to get site and landscape plans into the county is February-May, 2018. “It will take a year to build it,” so he anticipates opening in spring, 2019.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Felton Treatment Facility is adjacent to the library property. “SLVWD has very generously allowed access from Kirby Street, which will enable us to do the proposed Nature Explorer children’s outdoor area.” Felton Library Friends are working on obtaining a grant to help develop this outdoor space. Part of the easement agreement includes restoring native plants to the area. “When you take away riparian habitat, you must replace it at a two-to-one ratio,” Messer said.

Along with the interior spaces still in the planning stages and open to community input, there will be a glass covered walkway in the front and a courtyard in back which might include beverage service, a coffee cart, for instance. A trail will go through the property, directly accessible from Gushee Street. “Santa Cruz Parks will be involved with maintaining some of these public outdoor areas.” Asked whether the building will use solar, he says possibly, if there is funding. With the structure’s long southern face, he estimates up to 33 kilowatts of power could be generated from solar panels. Even without solar, “It will be very energy efficient with clerestory windows that will allow a good amount of ambient light, so they probably won’t be using electricity for lights all that much.”

An effort long dreamed about, Teall Messer’s community driven design beautifully transcends the potential drawbacks of a difficult site to create a thriving hub for all ages to enjoy.

Architect Teall Messer: http://teallmesserarchitect.com/

Felton Library Friends: www.feltonlibraryfriends.org

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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VANYA and SONIA and MASHA and SPIKE

Ben Lomond’s Mountain Community Theater delivers with world-class production now through May 28, 2017.

The Bottenberg & Horner Report

Mountain Community Theater presents the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang, directed by Peter Gelblum. The production opened at Ben Lomond’s historic Park Hall on Friday, May 5, and continues on weekends through Sunday, May 28. The cast includes: W. Scott Whisler, Daria E. Troxell, Robin Aronson, Correll Barca-Hall, Ashley Sue Perry, and Sasha Voigt.

Bottenberg – “The cast was brilliant, brought the right level of believability to big emotional roles with a wonderful understanding of the comedy of the book. The ensemble played so well with and against each other. Strongly and professionally directed. Pace and timing was great, balance of the humor and the sadness so well done. A wonderful play – balancing long standing family issues and unhappiness with a satisfying resolution. So much fun to be immersed in a good play with good players. Mountain Community Theater is a gem.”

Horner – “A realistic portrayal of the everyday that lifts the characters out of daily drudgery to tap into the submerged reservoir of dead-end re-visited, re-considered, and ultimately rejected. Family, conceit, insecurity, introspect…and hope, misplaced then re-kindled and re-purposed. Through the characters, we gain courage for living to individual potential without fearing judgement. Perception is not necessarily fact and we learn, with sparkling wit and biting humor, that we are all yearning for our own version of the glittering bauble and that you-must-have-the-wrong-number phone call for a first date on Saturday night. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is pure voodoo…it’s just a pinprick but it makes its point. As always, an enthusiastically packed house at Park Hall, chuckles and laughter to the rafters. And how old is Spike, exactly?”

Tickets and info: http://spike.brownpapertickets.com/ | https://mctshows.org/

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Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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Bear Creek Country Club – All Eyes on the Prize

BCRPD opens newly acquired Bear Creek Country Club for KBCZ 90.1 Radio fundraiser

By Julie Horner

The first opportunity for the public to enjoy the reopening of Bear Creek Country Club, a recent acquisition by the Boulder Creek Recreation and Parks District, is on Saturday, April 22 for the KBCZ Time Machine Dance Party: 1960s Edition radio station fundraiser, hosted by KBCZ 90.1 FM Boulder Creek Community Radio. The evening includes an all-1960s soundtrack featuring live DJs, a silent auction, beer, and wine. BCRPD’s new Bear Creek Facility, perfectly preserved in full 1960s splendor, is indeed, a time capsule itself.

The 1.2-million-dollar purchase, completed in November of 2016, came with a swimming pool, tennis courts, clubhouse, workout room, hot tub, sauna, four acres of park land, BBQ pits, creek access, basketball court, and interior social areas with soaring ceilings and sophisticated retro decor. To restore, renovate, and upgrade existing structures to meet public building access requirements – and help pay back the loan to the Santa Cruz Land Trust, which was instrumental in completing the sale – the District has launched a crowdfunding campaign with a goal to gather $600,000 over the next two years. To donate, visit: www.crowdrise.com/bear-creek-recreation-and-events-center-funding

Step back to the future and join the KBCZ Time Machine 1960s Dance Party: www.facebook.com/events/1351172781617271

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner for the San Lorenzo Valley Post

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Tending Toward the Bluesy – Damdave and the Left-Hand Band

By Julie Horner

Looking out from the “fishbowl” at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost, heads close together in comfortable familiarity in the late afternoon light, Dave Gillett and I sipped our “usual” and went to town reminiscing about spirited times in old haunts around the San Lorenzo Valley. Known affectionately as “Damdave,” he is front-man singer-songwriter and guitar player for the Boulder Creek-based Americana group, Damdave and the Left-Hand Band.

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Asked how he got the name “Damdave,” he explained how he had arrived in Brookdale – some 20 or more years ago – and started a folk jam at the Brookdale Lodge. He was just up from Santa Monica. “I was working for a health club in LA – had short hair and looked straight – one of my supervisors said, ‘You know, Dave, you seem like someone who might enjoy the Santa Cruz area.’” So he moved up and found a 1906 cabin in the mountains within walking distance of the Lodge.

One night he put his kids in bed and went over to check it out. “I didn’t drink at the time,” but he wound up earning his PhD hanging out in the bar. He remembers one of the bartenders, “Jenny Gilbert – Penthouse pretty – the owner’s daughter.” At one point someone asked his name. When he said, “David,” someone else at the bar shouted, “Not another damn Dave!”

Tuesday nights at the Brookdale Lodge were the slowest. “You had a couple of guys from the bar and we formed Damdave’s Odd-Ass Instrument Jam on Tuesday nights from ‘98-ish to 2008 or so,” Dave said. The Tuesday night jam was the forerunner of the Brookdale Bluegrass Festival. Eric Burman came to Dave’s jams and they decided after a time, “’Hey this would be a great place for a festival’…and it took off.” March 2000 was first year of the festival, he recalls, and featured a precursor to a band called the Waybacks, Faux Renwah, and the late yodeling lady, Lolita. “She was a great yodeler – played at the Lodge in its heyday – give her a couple of drinks and “Oh, goddam!”

Now Dave’s a Boulder Creek townie. “It’s a nice little town. I’ve written five songs about this town, I Love These Mountains, Bear Creek Road…there are more.” He’s also written three Brookdale songs, among them, Brookdale’s Burning and Highway 9, a takeoff on the old song Highway 55 co-written with Eric Burman. “She always walks alone, neither flesh and neither bone, ooooo!! There’s some really good lyrics. Eric always made it a 20-minute long instrumental thing with audience participation.”

For a while he was Damdave and the Hot Damn Band. The name change reflects the distinction that Dave plays left-handed. Along with Graham MacFarlane (standup bass), “Mando” Mike Reynolds (vocals, mandolin), and occasionally “Joebro” Adams (any of whom may or may not also play left-handed), the guys will entertain you with “a mix of dysfunctional bluegrass, country, blues, soul, and a healthy dose of Damdave originals.”

“I’m not bluegrass, I don’t want a bluegrass band,” he says. His sound is Americana tending toward the bluesy. “I’ve always been a blues kind of guy.” He was raised in Ann Arbor, between Detroit and Chicago. “My voice is kind of gravelly, I grew up with Bob Seger. I like Gregg Allman…I like all kinds of music. I was thinking about this not too long ago. When I listen to people singing, when I listen to blues or Motown, the way they sing a song, the emphasis is on the words and music together. I want to develop my voice and my songs to be able to express the parts of the music I want to express…with an honesty in my voice.”

Damdave and the Left-Hand Band play every Tuesday at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost and every few weeks at Casa Nostra in Ben Lomond. Watch for a GoFundMe campaign for Dave’s upcoming CD. Online: damdave.brookdalebluegrass.com | www.facebook.com/damdave.gillett

Copyright 2017 Julie Horner