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