When Hotel Brentwood closed its doors in 1967, all the furniture and anything else not nailed down was sold to the highest bidder. Earnest Swanson saw a notice in the newspaper and drove 25 miles to Brentwood, where he bought 30 bentwood chairs – for $1 each – and several light fixtures, including the foyer chandelier, which he paid $5 to own.
While Swanson sold the chairs for $2 each, he kept the chandelier and installed it in his family’s dining room.
“I was the first one there that day when they opened the doors to sell everything,” Swanson said. “They told me I could have any bedroom set for $65. That would include the bed and the dressers, but I didn’t have room to haul all that away, so I took the chairs. I liked the light fixtures, the sconces. I told them I didn’t have much money in my pocket, but I could offer them $5, and they said yes, as long as I could get it down myself.”
The chandelier is a modest, rustic gold, five-sconce fixture. Each sconce is carved glass featuring six sides, each highlighted by an engraved starburst that twinkles when lit.
The chandelier stayed in the Swanson household for nearly 36 years. After the family replaced the chandelier with a family heirloom, the chandelier was bagged and hung on a hook in the garage for safekeeping. After lying in wait in the garage for several years, Swanson’s son Ron, who now lives in Brentwood, suggested that the family donate the chandelier to the city, and earlier this month, the chandelier was installed in the Mayor’s Office at City Hall.
“This is something really special,” said Mayor Bob Taylor. “This chandelier is a significant piece of Brentwood’s heritage and history, and I’m so glad we can preserve it by having it here in the mayor’s office. It’s got a good home here and will hang here for many years to come.”
Hotel Brentwood, which opened in 1913, was located at the corner of Oak Street and Brentwood Boulevard. Hotel Brentwood was the reincarnation of the Brentwood Hotel, which burned down in 1903 after a disgruntled worker, bitter about being fired, set a fire in the basement. There were no injuries, but the blaze destroyed the 19-year-old edifice.
The Balfour, Guthrie and Company built a replacement hotel at the same location. The new hotel comprised 40 rooms, three suites and became an iconic gathering place in town. The hotel prospered for several decades, but the land was sold in the 1960s to the Standard Oil Company, which leveled the hotel to make way for a new service station, setting the stage for the current Brentwood Boulevard Chevron.
Taylor invited Swanson, his wife Betty McKenzie Swanson, son Ron and daughter Rhonda Soderberg (son Russ and daughter Reatha were unable to attend) to his office on Wednesday to show them the chandelier, which now hangs above the mayor’s conference table.
As the Swanson family exited the mayor’s office following a brief chat with Taylor, Earnest took a last look at the chandelier. “It sure looks good up there. I’m glad we gave it to a good home where it will be appreciated.”