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The “Beaches” Cottage

Jun 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Movie Locations

The Beaches Cottage - Crystal Cove-1798

For Mother’s Day this year, my mom decided that she wanted to take a little weekend getaway to Newport Beach with my dad, the Grim Cheaper and me. I was absolutely thrilled over her choice of destination as while we were vacationing at the Hyatt Huntington Beach, aka the Beverly Hills Beach Club from 90210 (which I blogged about here), for the GC’s birthday last year, I happened to come across an article on South Bay filming locations in an area-attractions magazine that had been put in our room. One of the locations mentioned in the article was the Crystal Cove Historic District’s Cottage #13, which had been featured in the 1988 film Beaches. I was absolutely floored to learn of the locale as I had previously been under the impression that the Beaches cottage was located on the East Coast, near Coney Island where the flick’s opening scenes were lensed. And while I immediately added the address to my To-Stalk list, we unfortunately did not have time to go there that particular weekend. So before checking into our hotel for our Mother’s Day vacay a few weeks ago, I dragged the GC right on over to Crystal Cove State Park to finally stalk the place

The Crystal Cove Historic District encompasses 12.3 acres of coastal land running along a 3.5-mile stretch of picturesque shoreline. The site was first developed in the late 1800s as a cattle ranch, then later as a sheep farm, and then later still, in a fortuitous twist, as a South Seas-style set for the movie industry. At the time, the property was owned by San Francisco-financier James Irvine (and later his son, James Irvine II), who had purchased it in 1864 from Jose Andres Sepulveda, who, in turn, had acquired it from the Mexican government in 1836. During the early 1900s, countless silent film productions came in, planted palm trees and built thatched-roof shacks for movies such as Treasure Island (1918), The Sea Wolf (1920), Stormswept (1923), White Shadows in the South Seas (1928), Half a Bridge (1928), and Sadie Thompson (1928). Some of those shacks were left behind after shooting wrapped and became homes for the Irvine’s friends and employees.

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The Irvines also allowed their friends and employees to build custom cottages on the beachfront site, most with thatched roofs to accommodate film production. Forty-six cottages in all popped up during the 1920s and 1930s, each constructed by hand using salvaged materials, including wooden pieces from a shipwrecked vessel that washed ashore in 1927. Miraculously, thanks to a leasing contract clause and some avid preservationists, each of the 46 original bungalows remains standing to this day. In the 1930s, the Irvine family decided to give their tenants the option of either moving their homes off the land or of transferring over ownership and paying monthly rent on the cottages. For whatever reason, the family added a clause to each lease which stipulated that no portion of the small dwellings was to be altered.

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The State of California purchased the land from the Irvines in 1979 and offered all then-tenants a twenty-year lease on their cottages. That same year, the site was added to the National Register of Historic Places, which listed the bungalows as “the last intact example of California beach vernacular architecture”. Once the twenty-year leases had expired in 1999, the state began showing interest in demolishing and vastly restructuring the cottages in order to make way for a large resort hotel. Thankfully, a Pasadena resident/local preservationist named Martha Padve, who regularly vacationed at Crystal Cove, joined forces with several other concerned citizens and formed the Crystal Cove Alliance, which ended up saving the site. Today, the cottages, which recently underwent an extensive two-phase restoration process, are offered to the public as extremely reasonably-priced vacation rentals.

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The Beaches Cottage - Crystal Cove-1811

I can honestly say that the Crystal Cove Historic District is one of the most adorable places I have ever visited. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to vacation there! The beachfront enclave features 22 charming vacation rentals, the quaintest little general store/gift shop that I have ever seen, an exhibit center, a park and marine research facility, a Ruby’s Shake Shack, and The Beachcomber Café (pictured below)– a fabulous toes-in-the-sand restaurant where the GC and I grabbed lunch – and some champagne, of course! Smile I honestly cannot more highly recommend stalking the site! Setting foot on the grounds is like stepping back to a simpler time – one which definitely encapsulates the Cove’s longtime motto, “Where every night is Saturday night and Saturday night is New Year’s Eve”. Love it!

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Towards the end of Beaches, longtime friends Hillary Whitney Essex (Barbara Hershey) and CC Bloom (Bette Midler), along with Hillary’s daughter, Victoria Essex (Grace Johnston), spend the summer at Hillary’s beach house. As you can see below, the cottage looks quite a bit different today than it did onscreen in 1988. I am fairly certain, though, that the structure has always been the same basic shape and that set designers added the A-line roof for the filming.


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The cottage’s porch area was used extensively during the filming.


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The interior of Hillary’s beach house was just a set, though. As you can see below, the real life interior of Cottage #13 is much, much smaller than what appeared onscreen.





Although it does appear that one of the cottage’s actual rooms was used in the filming.


The Beaches cottage, which is currently under renovation and will eventually serve as Crystal Cove’s film museum (how cool is that???), has a plaque on display on its front gate that alerts visitors of its cinematic history, which I was absolutely FLOORED to discover! Why don’t the owners of ALL movie locations do something like this?

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I was also floored to discover that the porch area is completely accessible to the public!

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Oh yeah, just hanging out at Hillary’s house. Winking smile

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The cottage also boasts some amazing views, as you can see below.

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The Beaches Cottage - Crystal Cove-1825

As you can see in this May 2010 picture from the Finding the Famous blog, before the recent renovation the home was in pretty bad shape. Thank goodness for the Crystal Cove Alliance!

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The Beaches Cottage - Crystal Cove-1783

Until next time, Happy Stalking! Smile


Stalk It: There is no real address for this location. The Beaches cottage, aka Cottage #13, is located in the Crystal Cove Historic District, inside of Crystal Cove State Park, in Newport Beach. The best way to describe how to get there is to head to The Beachcomber Café, which is located at 15 Crystal Cove in Newport Beach. You will have to park across the street from the park at the Los Trancos Parking Lot, which is located on the Pacific Coast Highway just south of Newport Coast Drive. Parking is $15 per car, but the café does validate. Then either walk or take a shuttle (which costs $2 a person, each way) to the park (I would recommend walking). Reservations are highly recommended for The Beachcomber as the place was absolutely jammed when we were there and the bar area was pretty much standing-room-only. The Beaches cottage is located about 8 houses east of the café. You can visit the official Crystal Cove Beach Cottages Website here.



Leave a comment »

  1. Michael Kelley says:

    I absolutely love your posts. I’ve written down lots of addresses from TV shows and such so if my boyfriend and I go to a particular area, I can take pictures. So far I really only have Jennifer’s (Loni Anderson) apartment building from “WKRP in Cincinnati” because that is where we live.

  2. Robin says:

    Thanks so much for your post-amazing! Do you have any idea where the beach scenes were filmed when the girls were young? It’s been years since I’ve seen the movie, but I just remember them walking between the cottages on the beach…

  3. Keith Harris says:

    Great, no… Amazing post! My partner loves loves loves this movie. He thinks I’m crazy when it comes to stalking celebrity/ movie locations. However, this one might be one he’d enjoy.

  4. Ashley says:

    I’m not really a fan of the movie, but I absolutely LOVED this post! I want to vacation there in one of the adorable cottages. Also it’s so great that you were able to go right up onto the porch!

  5. That is awesome that its a museum.

    Also, this is my kind of cottage! Seriously, who needs more than this?

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