Tustin auto courts welcomed wary travelers

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

CAR CAMP: Brewster’s Auto Camp was a welcome stop for wary motorists.
Basil F. H. Brewster built the camp on a piece of property in the
heart of Tustin at the corner of Main and D streets.

Auto camps and auto courts came into being in the late 1920s and 1930s as the automobile became common and family vacations began to center around driving.

Because these vacationers either didn’t want to stop at hotels or couldn’t afford to do so, camp grounds and small cottages offering sleeping, cooking and bathroom facilities as well as a garage for the family auto began to appear along the highways.

Basil F. H. Brewster brought his wife, Grace, and two sons, Basil and Fred, to Tustin from New York State in 1937 with the idea of buying land and building an auto court. He settled on a piece of property in the heart of Tustin at the corner of Main and D (El Camino Real) streets.

A Gilmore gasoline station took a chunk out of the parcel at the corner, leaving it shaped like an upside-down L, with the long portion fronting D Street and the leg ending on Main next to the Knights of Columbus building, which was then the Tustin Library.

As Basil, who still lives in the area, remembers, his dad had no previous experience as a carpenter, but he sketched plans for four cottages to be built in a unit running east and west on the south side of the property, and built it himself, hiring unemployed men who came to the site seeking work as helpers.

When the cottages were finished, the family moved into the one at the front and began renting the other three to travelers. Work began the next year on a second unit on the north side of the property, parallel to the first.

Lumber for this addition was purchased from Barr Lumber in Santa Ana, as Basil recalls, and one of their employees drew up the plans. When work was completed, the Brewsters had seven units to manage.

The war cut into the number of travelers on the road, but Basil remembers people who worked at the El Toro Marine Base staying long term

Anticipating the changes that would come after the war, Brewster sold the motel and bought a home on San Juan Street. A 1945 directory lists the auto court as the Tustin Motel with W. G. Olson as owner.

Eventually the buildings were remodeled into an office complex, which still exists between the Vintage Lady and the Roach Building.

A second Tustin auto court was located on Second Street. The units ran down Second from the corner of D, behind a small eating place originally called the Auto Court Cafe. This counter-and-stool cafe changed names frequently.

Marian’s Cafe, Jewett’s Auto Court and Trucker’s Inn appeared on the sign before it became Ruby’s in the mid 1940s. However, the auto court continued to be known as Jewett’s.

The café closed in 1982, and the building including the auto court was torn down in 1990. The property is now a parking lot for Helm Chiropractic Inc. owned by Robert Helm.


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