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Bankus buys out Brookings land assets Print E-mail
May 24, 2001 11:00 pm
Elmer Bankus was a key area figure for 37 years. ().
Elmer Bankus was a key area figure for 37 years. ().

About 1932, Elmer Bankus, a Portland contractor and builder, moved to the Brookings area and became associated with W.J. Ward. He helped Ward to liquidate the Brookings Land and Townsite Company. After Ward's death in 1926, Bankus bought the company's assets and took over the townsite. According to Henry Kerr, he bought it with a $12,000 promissory note.

Viola Hanscam recalls that in early days here she and her husband sometimes met him in Portland, and Bankus always said to them, "Whenever you see me here, I'm borrowing money!" He had to borrow often, even to pay the taxes on the houses in the townsite.

For 37 years Elmer Bankus was Brookings most prominent businessman, land developer, and philanthropist. His obituary in the Curry Coastal Pilot in 1973 notes that he was one of the pioneer land developers of the City of Brookings and laid out a number of water mains, streets and land tracts within the area.

His work aided also in the development and progress of the lily and lumbering interest in southern Curry County. He was sole owner of the Brookings Land and Townsite Co., the Brookings Redi-Mix Co. and the Brookings Water Co.

Brookings had a brief revival as a lumber export center in 1936 when several million feet of fir lumber was loaded on Japanese ships for export to that country. During the mid-1930s it enjoyed gradual growth as a vacation area, but with the onset of World Ward II, that development stopped abruptly. However, the War had one good effect. It shut off further importation of Easter lily bulbs from Japan, and thus stimulated the rapid growth of the bulb industry here.

Yes, Brookings was on an increasing number of maps -- county, state, national. It first appeared on the U.S. federal map in 1913, with the establishment of its post office. In 1937 the town received a second official federal listing when a weather station was installed here:

Brookings gets

Weather Station

One of a series of airway reporting stations was installed in the office building of the Brookings Land and Townsite Company last week ... The station is one of several authorized by Congress to be installed on the Pacific Coast. Brookings was selected by the Weather Bureau after extensive investigation of various Coast sites.

The installation consists of the following instruments; electrically recording anemometer, electrically recording wind direction indicator, recording barograph, mercurial barometer, wet and dry maximum and minimum thermometers, rain gauge.

In addition to the records of these instruments, reports are made to show types and thickness of cloud formations, ceiling height, and other data from which weather forecasts are made for benefits of airlines and operators. Four reports are made daily. After the reports have been received at the headquarters station, the complete reports are radioed and teletyped throughout all of the Western states.? Gold Beach Reporter, Jan. 7, 1937

For several years the official weather observer here was Frank Hassett. He worked in the C mill, then for W.J. Ward as a bookkeeper at the Central Building, and for Elmer Bankus after the latter took over the townsite. During this time as a weather observer he was paid $24 per month. Later he became the official observer under civil service. Other weather reporters in the early years here included Paul Whirry, Fred Pflughaupt, Minnie Akers and Dave Freeman.

Despite the enervating economic effects of the C withdrawal and the Depression years, Brookings has prevailed. In a year-end survey, the Coos Bay Times (now The World) of Dec. 29, 1937, praised its prospects for the future:

Brookings is considered by its business leaders to be one of the most promising towns in Curry County. Old houses are being torn down, and others are being fixed up. Already a decided change has taken place.

Many tourists have already discovered Brookings, and liked it. Although they have heard that there are no Redwoods in Oregon, they have found them here. They have walked out upon the nearby beaches, and admired the clean look of the smooth gravel, the absence of oil upon the waters, the welcome lack of unsightly debris. Throughout their stay they have felt the even warmth of the sun upon them, but never its burning heat ...

Brookings also offers to the outside world the beautiful Chetco River as one of the finest fishing streams on the coast.

Community Center Building Plan is Being Studied

The first step toward realization of a community center was taken last Thursday evening as a group of citizens of the community answering the invitation of the Rod & Gun Club, met in the Grange Hall.

While there is nothing definite to report as yet, because all committees have had no chance to report, the consensus of the meeting was to start a community-wide action toward erecting such a building this year.

Appointed to make a trip to Camp White and to report at another meeting were: Thor Ask, Pat Patterson, Herb Mason and Colonel Lockland. Hoping to buy some of the Camp White buildings, this group left with intention of looking at a post-exchange building. ? The Pilot, March 1947

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Rotary Club Here Holds Two Unique Distinctions

Organization of a Rotary club in Brookings, which was completed last Saturday when application was made for a charter, brought out two unique features which the local club can boast. First, it is the only un-incorporated town in the United States to have application in for a charter, and ... it will be the most westerly club in the United States...

Directors were named by the club at luncheon last Thursday, and consist of: Pete J. Lesmeister, Roy Weideman, R.H. Cox, Ralph Vincent, and Dewey Akers. Officers: President - Dewey Akers; Vice President -- Roy Weideman; Secretary-Treasurer - Harry Edward; Sergeant-at-Arms - B.J. Gould. ? The Pilot, May 1, 1947

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Ten Man Committee Heads Drive

for Chetco Road

A 10-man committee was chosen Thursday to head southern Curry County's campaign for an all-Oregon road to the interior. Art Knox, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce's Road committee, was elected temporary chairman ...

A crowd of almost 200 people were present to hear local leaders state the reasons they believe a road up the Chetco is feasible, and to pledge their support for it.

Members of the ten-man board who will direct the campaign are: Art Knox, Archie Anderson, Elmer Bankus, C. Ed Dempsey, Estes Morton, Harvey Foster, Henry Kerr, Ray Streubing, Warren Smith and Wilson Freeman. ? The Pilot, April 1, 1954

As Harbor and Brookings continued to grow, they honored respected pioneers by naming streets and by-ways after them. In Harbor, most of the streets have been named for pioneers there - Benham Lane, Chapman Lane, Hanscam Avenue, Hoffeldt Lane, Pedroli Drive, Tolman Lane.

In Brookings the early landholders are likewise remembered: Bankus Road, Crissey Circle, DeMoss Road, Hassett Street, Mendy Street, Ransom Avenue, Thompson Road. Pioneer Road was named for the Isenharts, Sam Jordans, DeMoss, and Hassetts, who lived at the end of that road. However, since Brookings in its beginning was a planned lumber mill town, most of the streets in the original platting carried names of trees: Alder, Birch, Cedar, Cypress, Fir, Hawthorne, Hazel, Hemlock, Maple, Mulberry, Myrtle, Oak, Pine, Redwood, Spruce, Tanbark, Willow.

But what about Easy Street? (Early pioneer) Max Brainard says that he and County Commissioner Claude Clayton named it that at the time it was being put through because the new street needed a name. The work was being done as a W.P.A. project during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, and that name seemed appropriate. They made and put up three signs until they fixed one that stayed up. Some of the women living on Easy Street were angry about that name, saying it was not easy to live there!

Memory Lane had a really romantic origin. In the C years the railroad line which carried lumber from the mill southward to California ran along the bluff very near the ocean. Tall alder trees lined both sides of the tracks. After the mill closed and the railroad was abandoned (the tracks were taken up in 1936) the railroad lane became a popular "lovers lane." When Elmer Bankus found he could not sell lots on the oceanfront unless they also fronted on a street, he put in the present Memory Lane street and called it that, perhaps in honor of the Lovers Lane of many memories.

It is also interesting also to note that the present Pacific Avenue was originally (in 1916) Fredalba Avenue. Cottage Street was Willow Street. Valley Street was San Bernardino Street. Center Street was Commercial Street. Hillside Avenue was Gloria Circle, named for the daughter of one of the Brookings family.

For a relatively new town, Brookings has its share of old buildings, some still well kept and in current use. The Central Building (built in 1917), was the first lumber company's administrative center. On the hill, the Chetco Inn remains in its still proud prominence. In 2001, the old mill's Mess Hall that was once the Ice Cream Barn Restaurant and Greyhound Bus depot, is now Lee's Dragon Gate Restaurant & Lounge (2001). The Redwood Theater is still the Redwood Theater. Next to it is the Manley Building, owned originally by Clive and Virginia Manley. The Crissey Building housed the Brookings State Bank; this is now the Prime House Restaurant.

 

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