|City/Town: • Tulsa|
|Location Class: • Hotel/Motel|
|Built: • 1940s | Abandoned: • 2010|
|Status: • Demolished|
|Photojournalist: • Billy Dixon • Rhys Martin,|
When I first laid eyes on it, The Brookshire Motel was an empty shell of a roadside motel near 11th and Garnett. Although their old neon sign still stood, I’d never seen it lit. In fact, I’d never seen any lights on at the property. Most of the windows were boarded up and the single car in the lot spoke of a single resident in the old office building. I got in touch with a local man by the name of Robert Brooks who had stories of the motel went back farther. His parents owned and operated the Brookshire back when 11th and Garnett was a country intersection known as “Dead Man’s Corner.” What follows is the history of his parents and the Brookshire Motel as he knows it.
In 1950, Cecil and Gusetta Brooks purchased a relatively new motel at 11017 E 11th St and gave it a name that bore resemblance to the family, Brookshire. Five years after their purchase, 11th street was widened from two lanes to four, this required rooms 1-6 next to the road to be demolished to make room for the expansion. From that point on, the lowest room number at Brookshire was 7. The most significant building at the motel was the office building, which also served as a residence for the Brooks family. Rooms 7 & 8 are directly behind the cottage/office. 9 & 10 (SW corner of the property) had garages while 11 & 12 (immediately north of 9 & 10) did not. The six rooms in the back were built shortly after the first six rooms were demolished in 1955. The room numbers on that building started at 21 as Cecil didn’t want a Room 13.
In later years the Brooks’ made another purchase and acquired the house next door (to the west, now demolished) and divided it into thirds for additional lodging. The house came with a laundry room, which was offered for use to guests. The garage was converted into a workshop with a regulation pool table in the back. Two trailers were placed on the property just east of the cottage and were offered as longer-term accommodation. The cottage/office had a front door and a back door. The back door was utilized by patrons wishing to rent rooms by the hour. Robert, who lived at the Brookshire until 1963, learned to not ask questions or acknowledge these customers in public if he recognized them. On the flip side, he was fascinated to learn the many dialects he heard from customers that hailed from around the country
In the early 1970s, the Brooks’ sold their beloved Brookshire Motel to a man by the name of Jerry Gordon. The Brooks family moved out of the cottage and into the mail house of their Brookhaven Motel that they also owned. It wasn’t too long thereafter that Mr. Gordon defaulted on his payments for the Brookshire and ownership transitioned back to the Brooks family. After some work to get the place back into shape they sold the property again, this time for good. The Brookshire Motel itself faded along with much of Route 66, Madhu Patel purchased the motel in 1984, just one year before Route 66 was federally decommissioned. Business and travelers along the famous highway were getting slower every year and budget motels to the east were close to the Interstate and siphoning guests. The area that Brookshire Motel was located in started to go downhill, many negatively headlined news stories further put a strain on the area. The Brookshire Motel became unprofitable and keeping it open no longer made sense to a businessman. It officially closed around 2010, from then on the property has been the source of numerous tragedies.
February 6, 2019 – The first major fire struck the defunct motel, specifically the cottage building that the Brooks family used to call home. The fire was speculated to be arson because of the many break-ins made by squatters but news sources say there were also thunderstorms in the area at the time of the fire so it could have been caused by lightning. An inspection by the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture called the structural integrity of the main building into question.
Hope held out for a little while as the Commission continued to work on finding a solution to save the site. But the worst was yet to come of the stories that the motel had to tell.
March 5, 2020 – The second fire had broken out, crews arrived on scene and were told to be extra precautious because the cottage building had previously caught fire and the property was abandoned making it unstable.
While you might have thought that this was the final blow to the hotel, you’d be wrong. The Brookshire Motel continued to suffer, it was less than two months later that it experienced another tragedy this time resulting in the loss of a life.
May 4, 2020 –
This deadly fire was the last straw and ended the push to preserve the once-famous Route 66 motel. It was condemned by the city and declared a nuisance, the fight for its saving was over. Demolition was on its way and came months later. On October 12, 2020, the Brookshire Motel suffered the final tragedy and was razed.
Article by AOK Photojournalists Rhys Martin and Emily Cowna