Origins of the Brook/Yerington Hotel vary from a couple of sources. Some research has revealed that there were actually two Yerington hotels of similar names: The Hotel Yerington and the Yerington Hotel
Historic newspaper ads for the Hotel Yerington, which was renamed from the Hotel Greenfield in 189.3, places ir along Yerington’s Main Street nearly two-blocks away from the structure of the Brooks/Yerington Hotel at the corner of Virginia & West Streets. Further tidbits in the Yerington Times describe an addition to the Hotel Yerington using Virginia City materials.
Hotel Greenfield Hotel and the Hotel Yerington
Mason Valley Tidings and the Lyon County Times, contemporary local newspapers, record the change of the name of the post office from Mason Valley to Yerington on April 1, 1894 even though post office records show the name change officially as of February 6, 1894. Within one week the dateline of the Mason Valley Tidings was changed from Greenfield to Yerington and all references to the Switch, Pizen Switch and Greenfield quickly ceased to appear. Newly organized clubs adopted the name as did business establishments such as The Greenfield Hotel that became the Yerington Hotel overnight.
Although the two might share similar names across time, it is probable their respective histories are a different matter.
Like most properties, a laundry list of names could be tied to this parcel’s deed history from J.S. Craig near the turn of the century to it’s last owner Carol Bennis. Somewhere between the two, more that an increase of the southerly property line from 150 to 175 feet. Much more comes out from the realm of mystery and supposition.
This property had a long history clear back to 1904 when it was owned by J.S. Craig. Craig would give his name to a portion of land called “Craig’s Addition” to the city.
Annie Carroll and May Johnston (later May Archer)
On Sept 3, 1904 J.S. and his wife Katie Craig deeded “All of that real estate lands and buildings” and “also all fixtures and personal property” owned by them in what, by assessor records, would be the northern portion of Yerington, to Annie Carroll and May Johnston (later May Archer).
Mary Ellen, or “Ella,” Brooks, Proprietress, Character and History
A deed signed January 11, 1906 show the property being signed over to Mary Ellen Brooks for the sum of $262.50.
Mary Ellen “Ella” Hilbun was born of a prominent pioneering Mason Valley family. Born near Jefferson City, MO on August 11, 1963, she came to Nevada with her family following the passing of her father. It was the “Pizen Switch” days when the 10-year-old arrived in the valley by oxen team. At that time Ella and her family met up with her uncle Steven Hilbun, who farmed the old Cooper Ranch.
Following a bit of schooling, she became cook for several area farms. At age 18, she married local buckaroo Romanzo Sidney “Manny” Brooks, who was considered on of the finest horsemen of the day. Romanzo had moved to Mason Valley with his parents from his native Illinois in 1971 and settled on what was known, at the time of his death, as the Old Brook’s Ranch. Long time Mason Valley resident Ed Silva recalled this ranch was located northeast of town north of Manha Lane and left at the fork. Ten years following his arrival, Romanzo and Mary Ellen were married. The couple remained at the home ranch until 1906 when they moved into Yerington.
As for the lady who ran it all in her day, there are some, who recall Mary Ellen, or “Ella,” Brooks as a proprietress of principle. Longtime resident Jack Pursel said the thrifty lad was strict on everybody in that she did not allow drinking, smoking or card playing in the hotel’s rooms.
Mrs. Brooks had a driving strength which served her well throughout a life of hard work, various physical illnesses and personal loss. Washing, cooking and overseeing the hotels additions were just the icing on the cke for a woman who was victim of various ailments, including one time breaking a few fingers while working with a window; however this likely became small potatoes when compared to other bouts.
The Aug 9, 1913 edition of the Yerington Times reported she had been ill enough to call her sons to her bedside. However, her spirit prevailed, as the next week found her on the “road to recover.”
Such physical pains did not often keep this woman from her duties at the hotel. A not from the Dec 18, 1917 edition of the Mason Valley News said she was attacked by “grip” the previous Tuesday and confined to bed for several days; however, by Friday, she was back up and greeting guests.
Of course not all of her tribulation came from muscle fatigue and illness. Mary Ellen and Romanzo lost three children before 1925. Electa Brooks passed away from a 17 year illness, however as her mother’s daughter, Electa did not allow her illness to diminish her spirit, her obituary noted. They also lost their daughter May Belle Brooks McCulla and one of their three sons, Edward.
Mary Ellen’s dedication to the hotel would remain true until nearly the end of her life. In her front page obituary, it says she was “noted for industry and until her retirement from active work five years ago, she managed all the affairs of the hotel.
Mary Ellen Brooks passed away Oct 1, 1948 having suffered a stroke earlier that day. She was 85. Romanzo Sidney Brooks preceded her in death 12 years prior on Aug 23, 1936 at age 83, who also succumbed to stroke.
Surviving were two of their sons, Fred and Frank Brooks. Some of the long-timers recall the brothers. Fred was once the chief of the Yerington Police Department and later, dog catcher. Frank was once Yerington City engineer and local hardware store worker.
The Brooks Home Hotel
Shortly after moving to Yerington, in a time when local lodging was scarce and sought, Mary Ellen built the first unit of what would become the Brooks Home Hotel. According to tidbits from the day’s papers, it seems the boarding house later took the name “Brook’s Home Cottage”
Taking tidbits from the day’s papers, it seems a boarding house later took the name, “Brooks Home Cottage.” Amenities included kitchen and dining room; however, in a time when hotels cost a dollar to $2.50 per night and Yerington was beginning its boom as a mining camp, it was difficult to keep space available for every soul in search of slumber.
What many remember as the Yerington Hotel at the corner of Virginia and West Street with its quaint little rooms, was once known as The Brooks Home Hotel.
It was called “home” to salesmen, miners, commercial men and many other travelers long since departed.
The “growing transient trade” takes credit for the eventually construction of a three to four room addition to the hotel in February, 1911.
Advertisements in the weekly Yerington Times began to boast of the “Brooks Home Cottage” On could board by day, week or month at “reasonable rates” and enjoy “home cooking and home style” Breakfast was served 6:30-8:30am, lunch from noon to 1 pm and dinner from 5-6:30 pm including Sundays. “Best of service for transient and regular customers” the ad finishes.
The Home Cottage annex neared completion on June 24, 1911, ad as the Yerington Times reported it “is to be quite an addition addition to this part of the City.”
The Yerington Times praised the completion of the addition of The “Home Cottage Hotel” on October 7, 1911. It exclaimed that the hotel was “one of the most popular buildings in town with its new addition and fully furnished rooms and meals as good as ever”.
In a short lived publication, The Lyon County Wasp published an article on December 5, 1912 where it reported that Mary Ellen was making another addition to the “Home Cottage Hotel “this time to the west of the main hotel an fronting south.” It continued, “Mrs Brooks has found it necessary to have additional sleeping rooms to accommodate her patrons, hence the new building. It also reported that her son Frank Brooks and Frank Gallagher were charged with the construction. “Mrs Brooks certainly deserves the success she is achieving..”
As this building sits in three distinct units today, it is difficult to ascertain which unit this addition refers: however, as the booming qreq continued to grow, the hints were soon to be made print.
In the short -lived publication titled “The Lyon County Wasp,” an article on Thursday Dec 5, 1912 leads an answer when it says Mary Ellen is maken another addition to the Home Cottage Hotel, “this time to the west of the main hotel and fronting south. Mrs. Brooks has found it necessary to have additional sleeping rooms to accommodate her patrons, hence the new building,” it says, adding her son Frank Brooks and Frank Gallagher were charged with construction, “Mrs. Brooks certainly deserves the success she is achieving.”
Less than a month later, The Yerington Times reported, “The Brooks Home Cottage Hotel is prospering, if judged by the improvements being made on the property. A new 22-room building is near completion and will give the place accommodations of many more guest. A nice new cellar is constructed of adobe and plastered outside and inside with gypsum making quite an attractive, clean-looking building. The owners of the property deserve all the success that is coming to them, for they are builders.” The new addition also included a storage house and a bar area for gentlemen.
The Brooks Home Hotel quickly became famous through Western Nevada as “the headquarters for salesman, mining men, lawyers and politicians.” In fact, a rising young lawyer had made the hotel his headquarters and this lawyer, later better known as U.S. Sen Patrick McCarren, continued to keep the hotel as his headquarters whenever business brought him to Yerington.
For many local old-timers, memories of the hotel and its proprietress share a similar thread in describing the rank as a first-class establishment of its day. Even parties at the Brooks Hotel sometimes made headlines including that described within the Dec 27, 1919 edition of the Mason Valley News: “Pheasant Party at Brooks Hotel” caught the reader’s eye going on to describe a “very pleasant” Christmas Eve get together in honor of Miss Ruby McDaniels, who had been a waitress at the hotel for nearly a year and was leaving Yerington on Christmas Day to take up new residence in Oakland, CA.
Of this party, the evening was spent playing cards and other games. Mrs Percy Wright won first prize for the highest score in the card game “whist” while Mfs F. Brooks captures the booby prize.
Many local residents recall the establishment as being a very nice place. Lifelong resident Maxine Ford whose brother Gene Trankle was married to one of Mary Ellen’s granddaughters, Lena, said she once ate at the Brooks Hotel with her father. Sh recalls it was very unusual for her to go to someplace like that for a luncheon. Ford also recalls some of the rooms being small with restroom and shower facilities located down the hall.
For others, the place was simply a place to call home until their new residence was fit for habitation. Local resident, Dody Newell (the Dody Balaam) stayed at the hotel for a few months at age 16 during the winter of 1947/48. Her parents, still settling things with their former ranch in California, allowed her to stay at the hotel in Yerington by herself in order to assure she could locally start the school semester. In her eyes, she recall the room bing liveable and a place to call home for a while.
The same could be said about local resident, Joe Dini, who lived in the hotel for a time while his home was being remodeled. He recalls the fixtures being antique.
Speaking of antiquity, it is a note of interest in our modern day of political correctness, an old newspaper advertisement from about 1920 paints a somewhat exclusive outlook of the hotel in bragging of employing only “white cooks.”
From time to time through the years, tidbits are found within the day's newspapers. An article from the Mason Valley News of Nov. 3, 1947 speaks of Mary Ellen enjoying “a number of improvements recently made at Brooks Cottage. These included a double culinary space to more efficiently supply services to patrons. The article goes on to note, ”the installation was made just in time to take care of a large increase in hotel business during the past few weeks.”
Fred and Frank Brooks
Like any legacy created and sustained within the realm of mortality, the torch of the well-know hotel was passed on following Mary Ellen’s death. Next to hold deed was Fred and Frank Brooks, however their ownership was relatively brief.
It was only six months prior to Mary Ellen’s passing that she deed the hotel to Frank who, just 24 days after his mother's passing deeded the property to Fred. The next summer, on July 18, 1949, the hotel was deeded to William H. and S Jane Tretheway.
William H. and S. Jane Tretheway
On July 28, 1949, the Thetheways, who once owned a ranch, which he sold to purchase the hotel from the Fred Brooks. Any and all change to the building following the Brooks’s ownership paled in comparison. In fact, most improvements could be chalked up to improving electrical and plumbing infrastructure.
Tretheway later donated an old potbelly stove from the Brooks Hotel to the Lyon County Museum where it remains on display as a fixture in the East Walker Schoolhouse.
Bill Pursel’s wife, Marguerite, worked at the hotel during those years whenever help was needed. This was especially the casee during the annual rodeo, which nearly always saw a packed house, he said.
Bill Pursel recalled a local individual and loner, Alan Funk, who would stay at the hotel from time to time. He said Funk once brough a chainsaw into the hotel to repair it and, at some point in the night, revevved it to test his work. It is likely most guests awakened from silent slumber that evening also remembered the incident for years to come.
Tretheway, who later moved out of the valley, would own the historic hotel for nearly 20 years before deeding the property to lifetie local resident, Joe Menesini, Jr. in 1968.
Joe Menesini, Jr.
Deeded along with the property was some of the magic of days gone by. “My God. it was really something,” Menesini said noting the buildings name during his time there was “The Yerington Hotel.”
He paid $30,000 for the lot, which in 2007 was ten times that amount. Upon purchase, he refurbished the buildings electrical system for nearly $2,500 and created four apartments as wall as additional structures in back. At nearly $20 per week, one could rent from Menesini, which included brass beds and antique “rabbit ear” faucets he installed on the sinks.
He recalled having to clean and/or snake pipes in the old structure late at night more times he cared to remember. Speaking of the old construction, Menesini said the floor joist were between 16 and 18 inches apart and were not touching the ground. Of the foundation, he noted the building was built on entirely on gravel.
Menesini said he enjoyed the people and seldom had a dull moment during his nearly 10 years as owner of the The Ydrington. He recalls a gentleman with a peg leg who needed a place to stay, though he had no money. Out of kindness, Menesini granted him a warm bed and the man stayed for a week before moving on. Eventually, that man ended up in Florida. A month later, the Menesini received a letter with payment enclosed and he knew immediately from who it came, as it was signed “the peg legged man.”
From Menesini, the building went to Mary Smith. Smith placed quite a few antiques in the building and brought about a sort of revist to its glory days.
The next owner was Bruce Kellogg who removed the antique furnishings from the building along with some of the old bathroom tiles.
Carol Bennis purchased The Yerington Hotel but was not able to finance the many code violation repairs. Substandard to modern building codes and more or less stripped of all its original decor, the building fell victim to vandals, weather and time; however to take a tour through its elaborate halls and catch a few instances of original ceiling, wallpaper and construction would give one a true feeling of what it must have been like to stay a night in what was most famously known in the West as th Brooks Home Hotel.
Yerington Hotel Furnishings
Kitchen in one of the apartment units
The Demolition of the Yerington Hotel
Obituary of Joseph "Joe" Menesini, Jr.
Joseph "Joe" Menesini, Jr. passed away Thursday morning, April 14, 2016 at South Lyon Medical Center in Yerington. Joe was 90.
Joe was born in Yerington, Nevada on November 15, 1925 the son of Joseph and Fortuna (Nuti) Menesini. Joe was first married to Queen Wilson for over 32 years, they had three children. In 1985 he married Wanda Miller.
Joe had been a lifelong resident of Yerington, he was a farmer, a butcher, and had also owned the Yerington Hotel at one time and also had worked for the Lyon County Road Department.
He is survived by his wife of over 30 years, Wanda; his son, Marvin; a daughter Doreen Rigsby; 7 stepchildren and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, a son, Brian and 6 brothers and 7 sisters.
“The Brooks/Yerington Hotel’s Place in the West” by Patrick Abanathy, Lyon County Reflections A Look At Our Historic Past, 2007
Lyon County Museum
Mason Valley News