Santa Cruz County is replete with points of interest and historical locations. From the Mystery Spot to Wilder Ranch to Felton Covered Bridge, the area is rich in cultural experiences that blend the past with the present, like the Brookdale Lodge.
Built in 1890, with the addition of the Brook Room dining room in 1920, the lodge has played host to a myriad of events and dignitaries, including visits from Marilyn Monroe and President Herbert Hoover. In 2009, fire swept through the residential apartments in the back of the property, and in 2011, the building was red-tagged by the Boulder Creek Fire Protection District due to safety violations that were discovered during an inspection.
Since then, the lodge has been pieced back together by new owners and a loving community. Now, it’s time for another feather in its cap: the bestowment of a plaque recognizing the Brookdale Lodge as an historical point of interest. The commemoration will take place at the lodge on Nov. 13 at 1pm. The family-friendly event will feature live music by Whiskey West and food and drink available for purchase.
Anthony Moore is the Noble Grand Humbug of Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus (ECV), a nonprofit fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West whose members are referred to as “Clampers.” As head Humbug (the 28th of the local chapter), Moore oversees the installation of plaques at local historical sites, and he’s thrilled to tip his hat towards the lodge.
“The Brookdale has a lot of history, and everyone focuses on the paranormal activity and ghost sightings, but they forget about the mobsters and James Dean, and the booze running and illegal gambling,” Moore said. “We decided it was time to plaque the lodge.”
Moore recounts other locales that have been “plaqued” by the group: Cremer House, Felton Covered Bridge, the Scott House in Scotts Valley, the Boardwalk, the S.S. Palo Alto, and more.
“We’re an organization known for a little absurdity,” said Moore. “The preservation of history is the serious part of what we do.”
Jenny Coleman, wife of E Clampus Vitus vice president Cary Coleman, says the organization hosts an annual event called the Widders’ Ball, which is the only event that wives are allowed to attend.
“We wear period clothing, including hoop skirts and saloon girl outfits, and it’s a big deal,” said Coleman. “When we were putting together this year’s event, we landed on the Brookdale Lodge as the location, and decided to marry the Widders’ Ball with the historical designation plaquing.”
Moore says that the plaquing of buildings used to be restricted to those edifices 100 years or older, but it’s getting harder to find those locations.
“We’re now plaquing anyplace that holds historical significance,” he said. “There is a lot of history here in Santa Cruz County that goes unnoticed and has yet to be discovered.”
The 100 active members of the local ECV chapter dedicate themselves to bettering their communities. As an historical and secret society, prospective members need to be sponsored by current members and thoroughly vetted, and it’s definitely a boys-only club. Those boys bring their skills to projects like toy drives and community beautification and can be found marching in the Felton Remembers Parade over Memorial Day, and the Aptos World’s Shortest Parade on July 4th.
“We have a great relationship with the community,” said Moore, “and we’re just trying to keep that positive impact going.”
For information, call 831-609-6010 or visit brookdalelodge.com.