Field Notes

Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove State Park has an incredible heritage as one of the pristine preserved historical and natural landscapes in Southern California. It offers a glimpse into the past with the quaint beachside cottages that are painted in an array of bright colors. They represent the quintessential California living. The interpretive cottages house a collection of artifacts. You will be greeted by a docent who will shares stories about the past. This site is now federally recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Learn more about the Crystal Cove Cultural History via their website. We encourage you to take a site tour with the California State Parks brochure.

“The history of recreation here began in the early 1900s, when people were beginning to ‘hit the road’ in their automobiles. For anyone who could afford a Model T, an outing to the cove became a regular event. Taking note of the cove’s possibilities, the film industry began using it as a filming location. Photos dating back to 1917 show the palm trees and thatched roofs often used by filmmakers to portray South Sea island locations. In 1927 the little pocket beach was given the name Crystal Cove. Well before its dedication in 1928, the Pacific Coast Highway was offering motorists miles of ocean vistas. With this increased interest in the cove, the Irvine family generously allowed friends and ranch employees to pitch tents and build temporary shelters there. Modest, palm-thatched cottages began to appear around 1917, adding to the Pacific island ambiance. In the 1920s the cargo of a capsized lumber ship washed ashore, providing residents with more building materials. During prohibition rum smugglers often used the cove to smuggle their booty ashore. For years after the law was repealed, bottles of rum could still be found buried in the sands of the beach.” [Crystal Cove State Park brochure, 2004]

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