Friday, February 22, 2019

Stations: Brookdale

For the last three decades of the nineteenth century, the San Lorenzo Valley had three substantial settlements that were conveniently spaced three miles apart from one another. One mile south of Boulder Creek, the area on either side of Clear Creek was little more than a Grover & Company lumber mill, a few scattered homesteads, and Robert C. Reed's hotel. It was less of a settlement and more of a waypoint. Grover was largely responsible for the removal of old growth redwoods in the vicinity of Clear Creek until 1883. At that point, other firms took over to finish cutting the less valuable timber and clearing most of the stumps. 

Postcard showing Brookdale station with the post office in the background, 1910s. [Derek R. Whaley]
These early logging operations required adequate transport since hauling lumber or uncut logs down the county road two miles to Felton was inefficient. When the San Lorenzo Valley flume was erected in 1875, Clear Creek was damed to provide water for the flume and lumber from Grover's mill was sent down the line to Felton, where it could be loaded onto Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad trains bound for the Railroad Wharf in Santa Cruz. Grover worked within the constraints of this arrangement throughout its time operating in the area. McKoy & Duffy leased the mill in 1883 and was fortunate to be able to utilize the Felton & Pescadero Railroad from late 1884.

A view looking up Reed's Spur from the southeast, c. 1905, with the station at left and the post office in the distance.
[Grant Carrell]
A station may have appeared at the location as early as 1884, although one did not enter official railroad documentation until 1892, five years after the Southern Pacific Railroad took control of the line. The station was named Reed's Spur, a reference to the nearby hotel owner upon whose land the tracks and station were probably built. The spur was originally a long track that paralleled the main branch line from Clear Creek before turning up Pacific Street briefly. It measured 239-feet and was supported by a wooden freight platform.

County survey map showing Reed's Spur (misspelled) along the Felton & Pescadero Railroad line, 1894.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]
McKoy & Duffy gave up on the mill around 1893 and the platform is no longer listed in records after that date. Irving T. Bloom ran the last formal lumber operation in the area, wrapping up in 1900. The end of the spur was probably abandoned at this time, although the lower section was still used to park passenger trains. The station became known as Reed from 1901 onward. No further freight operations were reported after this time. At some point, the parallel portion of the spur was turned into a 150-foot-long siding. When the line was standard-gauged in 1908, the original siding and spur were removed and replaced with a new spur that ended at the bottom of Pacific Street just before the right-of-way turned onto the bridge over the river.

Aerial view of Brookdale in 1911, with the station visible at left and the Brookdale Trestle at right.
Photo by Ravnos.

Stephen F. Grover, one of the owners of the mill property, had envisioned for many years a vacation community in the Clear Creek area. After McKoy & Duffy left, he converted a few old mill structures into vacation cottages. The venture was a success. In 1898, he joined with local landowner, Judge John H. Logan, to erect a permanent resort facility in the vicinity. They renamed the settlement Clear Creek to better market the area, although the railroad retained the old name, Reed. Within four years, the resort gave promising returns, with a former mill building expanding to become Hotel Minehaha, the nucleus of the nascent vacation retreat. Grover never got to see returns on his investment, though. In 1903, he backed out due to financial problems and Logan bought the entirety of the Grover & Company property. Soon afterwards, he petitioned the federal government for a post office under the name Clear Creek. The government declined stating the name was too common. Logan immediately tried again, this time succeeding in his efforts with the fanciful English name Brookdale.

Brookdale station on a busy day, late 1910s. 
One of Logan's early additions to the area was a railroad station shelter. He installed this on the south side of the tracks beside the Reed's Spur switch stand. This station likely opened in 1905, when the name of the stop was changed to Brookdale. The station shelter was small and always seasonal, hosting only a ticket and telegraph office that was staffed during the summer months. A broad covered porch wrapped around three sides of the shelter, with benches provided for waiting passengers.

Property survey of the Brookdale area showing the railroad right-of-way, 1909.
[San Lorenzo Valley Museum]

Brookdale as a summer resort was quite successful over its first two decades. Logan subdivided his property heavily and a substantial portion was sold to John DuBois in 1911, who installed seasonal cottages throughout his land to serve as vacation rentals. Hotel Minehaha became the Brookdale Hotel in 1907, followed by the Brookdale Lodge in 1915. In 1922, Logan sold his remaining property to F. K. Camp, who invited Hollywood celebrities to stay and perform at the hotel. He hired Horace Cotton to oversee the expansion of the lodge buildings, and it was Cotton who constructed the Brook Room restaurant, through which flowed Clear Creek. Most of the rustic nature of the lodge dates to this period. Railroad service to Brookdale ended in late 1930 and the town, like most seasonal resorts in the Santa Cruz Mountains, suffered during the Great Depression, although the hotel survived the worst years and even managed to bring in high-quality entertainers regularly.

Colorized postcard of the Brookdale Lodge Brook Room, mid-1920s.

After the end of World War II, Barney Marrow, who owned the Brookdale Inn across the road, purchased the lodge. He allowed the resort to decline in quality. After several more changes in ownership, the hotel had fallen so far that part of the lodge burned in 2007, prompting its closure. It finally reopened under the management of Pravin and Naina Patel in late 2018 as the Brookdale Lodge Inn & Spa. Most of the original Logan and Camp structures survive, although the Brookdale Inn has since closed and been demolished.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
The site of Brookdale station today, looking southeast down
the right-of-way. [Derek R. Whaley]
37.1099N, 122.1096W

The site of Brookdale Station can be found at the bottom of Pacific Street to the south just before the road turns over the bridge to Huckleberry Island. A modern private home now occupies the property and all evidence of the station structure has disappeared. A number of historical buildings dating to the time of the station survive in the surrounding area, including the original post office situated on the west side of Pacific Street, one home down from the end. The ballast fill for the railroad can still be seen at the end of Pacific Street while the right-of-way itself continues to the southeast, through two properties before crossing Clear Creek and continuing on. Trespassing on any of the properties in this area is not advised.

Citations & Credits:
  • Clark, Donald Thomas. Santa Cruz County Place Names: A Geographic Dictionary. Second edition. Scotts Valley, CA: Kestrel Press, 2008.
  • Hammon, Rick. California Central Coast Railroads. Second edition. Santa Cruz, CA: Otter B Books, 2002.
  • Whaley, Derek R. Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Santa Cruz, CA, 2015.


  1. I liked the photo of the trestle just north of
    Brookdale station. I had never seen a picture
    of this trestle. It appears to be the only crossing
    of the San Lorenzo River north of Brookdale without
    the huge stone piers. The three which came after
    this one all had the big piers which stand in the
    middle of San Lorenzo River to this day. But this
    was also an excellent and informative article too,
    as always! Thank you for your efforts! And I think
    your maps are better than mine!

    1. Hey Duncan, actually the Hotel Ben Lomond Trestle also was a wood-built trestle. I finally went out there and visited the site behind the Tyrolean Inn. Definitely a wood-built trestle and I'll post an article in a bit to prove it. But other than that, it seems only the Brookdale Trestle was wood-built. The photo above is so far the only one I have seen of that trestle.

  2. A few guesses here.

    1. I think trestle #4 will prove to be a wooden truss, not steel.
    2. The switch in front of the station will be Reeds, a spur that remains straight while the main curves. The aerial photo makes a siding unlikely, and the two boxcars are not 'staying' with the mainline. The classic photo shows a freight platform on the left, this would make it a class B. The spur does not end at the river edge either, only at the street. The spur may have had more angles in it while still the original narrow gauge.
    3. Steen's spur was only 0.1 miles further down the line from Reed's. The spur pointed down the line, hugged the main through the curve, and trickled into the fish pond area. I say hugged, but maybe not too tight, creating a separation. The properties around the curve look like they simply annexed the abandoned line as part of their backyards (1909 survey map), while the tail of the spur still exists in the earlier survey maps for the hatchery.
    4. The Fish Hatchery used the spur for only a few years. It's curious that the hatchery is well aligned with the tracks, has a white destination sign on the roof, and has a high foundation (sort of like a loading platform again, although I don't know what kind of structure a hatchery needs). I think the hatchery may have been an early adopter of highway transport, I also see one serious looking fence around it; I think for security reasons the rail connection was dumped. Class B spurs only needed the platform (?), looking for additional structures might be unnecessary.

  3. Hi,

    The old Parcel Map at the foot of Pacific St., crossing the Bridge onto Huckleberry Island is of high interest at the moment around these parts. Any more of that map available around that spot, and the Island Circle???




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