As It Was: Timber Baron Builds Brookings, Ore. in Early 1900s

Oct 8, 2018

In 1906, California timber baron John E. Brookings began investigating expansion opportunities along the Southern Oregon Coast.

Within two years, his Brookings Timber & Lumber Company had acquired 30,000 acres of Douglas fir wilderness.  After the first shipments of material and workers arrived at the Chetco River, production began in 1914.

Brookings’ cousin, financier Robert S. Brookings, hired noted San Francisco architect Bernard Maybec to lay out a company town for about 1,500 people, with streets that followed natural contours of the land.

The cousin was a wealthy philanthropist.  He supported Washington University in St. Louis and created the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., held important federal government posts during World War I, served as a diplomat, and advised Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.

The company built a cookhouse, mess hall, a store, a large bunkhouse, water and sewage systems, a logging railroad, 20-acre mill pond, and enough electricity to run the sawmill and supply the entire town.  The town soon had a post office, school, hospital, hotel, and family cottages.

The mill closed in 1925, plunging Brookings into a slump until its flower bulb industry started up a few years later.

Source: Olsen, Edward. “Then Til Now in Brookings-Harbor.” Rotary Club of Brookings, 1979, pp. 27-39.