Sunset Motel, established by Herbert and Clara Brown with their son and daughter-in-law, Vern and Mabel Brown, has remained an independent, family-run business for four generations. The motel has grown from a modest pair of duplexes to a 70-unit complex.
It all started with the Great Bandon Fire of 1936 which destroyed most of the town, including both Brown residences. After the fire, the Browns relocated to a parcel they acquired on the bluff above
Bandon Beach that boasted a spectacular view of the legendary Face Rock and several other sea stacks. Herbert Brown and his 1938 son Vern were experienced contractors who helped rebuild the town before erecting two small duplexes side by side on their new property. Herbert and Clara lived in one unit, Vern and Mabel lived in another, and the other two units were rented.
After World War II, Vern connected the two buildings with a row of rooms, forming a U-shape with six apartments and eight rooms. The original incentive for building the U-shaped complex was to provide housing for teachers for the Bandon School District. As a member of the PTA, Mabel was aware of a need for affordable housing for teachers and convinced Vern to help out by building the additional rooms. So for the first years, the Browns rented rooms to teachers from September to June and then to travelers during the summer. After the teacher shortage resolved in the 1950’s, the rooms were renovated and became year round tourist accommodations.
On April 14, 1960, a fire of unknown origin claimed two-thirds of the structure. For a while, only two apartments and four sleeping rooms remained. Undaunted, Vern Brown rebuilt and enlarged the motel to honor his wife’s memory, creating 12 more tourist accommodations (18 total with one apartment for his family). Vern believed in expanding the motel to allow better access to what he believed was the greatest view of the Pacific Ocean.
To meet the rising demand of tourists who had discovered Bandon, Vern began construction on the Original Oceanfront, creating six more units with the help of his son-in-law, Harold “Butch” Longland, between 1969 and 1971.
In the mid-1980s, Vern’s daughter Judy and her husband Carl Densmore took over operations. Later that decade they constructed the Vern H. Brown Addition honoring Vern himself. Each of the 21 units in this three-story building west of the bluff has a private balcony with a spectacular ocean view.
In addition to the motel, they began managing rentals for several owners of small beachfront cottages. In the early 1990s, Judy and Carl sold an adjacent lot to the Iverson family, who built Lord Bennett’s Restaurant and Lounge.
Vern’s grandsons, Bryan and Jeffrey Longland, grew up helping their grandfather at the beach resort. After finishing college, they returned with their families to help manage the business and design the Ocean View Studios.
The motel’s name was changed to “Sunset Oceanfront Lodging” to acknowledge its beachfront location and the wide variety of tourist accommodations in this four block long complex.
In 2000, the 18-unit Ocean View Studios opened. The two-story addition included spacious rooms with fireplaces, private patios or balconies, along with a spacious new lobby and indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi. In 2002, Bryan and Jeffrey Longland, the fourth generation, took over operation of the motel.
Guests now enjoy free Wi-Fi in their rooms, a light continental breakfast, and beach access via three stairways on the property.
But most of all, they enjoy the same stunning view of sea stacks carved by wind and waves, rising from a broad sandy beach that first inspired Vern Brown to share his home with travelers.