Community Traditions at The Cove: Historic Cottage #15 — The Whistle Stop and The Beachcomber Cafe
Every year, the historic seaside bungalow now known as The Beachcomber Cafe gathers more than 150,000 people for casual ocean-front dining, following a long tradition of family and friends sharing meals and memories at Crystal Cove. The Beachcomber is closed on Thanksgiving Day, but at one time Cottage #15 hosted as many as 75 people for festive annual Thanksgiving dinners on the beach.
Cottage #15 was built in the early 1930s, and its central location made it a natural gathering place. One of its first residents, a train engineer named Mr. Mitchell named the cottage “The Whistle Stop,” complete with a sign with an electric train circling around it, and over the years it became a spot for the Cove community to “stop” by. Vivian Falzetti, an artist who moved to Cottage #15 in the 1970s with her husband Doug made good use of the historic bungalow’s inviting location. In addition to annual Thanksgiving Dinners, they also hosted “Sunday Suppers” at Cottage #15 — potluck buffets where neighbors shared leftovers like red beans or enchiladas to share with Vivian’s famous ceviche. Elaborate annual New Year’s Eve casino nights featured festive food and games and an arrow-shaped sign with flashing lights to let everyone know the party was on at Cottage #15 to entice the community to stay in the Cove for the night.
The potluck meals at Cottage #15 continued the Cove tradition of bringing family and friends together at the beach, which began with communal bonfire dinners. In the heydey of the tent-camping era, sometimes there were enough steaks for the whole Cove, and after dinner, everyone would gather around a single fire pit and sing songs together late into the night. These shared meals and traditions bound the Cove community, and today many families have their own shared Cove traditions of coming down to the beach before or after their holiday dinners, or for holiday picnics on the beach. Those staying in one of the restored cottages over Thanksgiving also continue the Cove potluck tradition by inviting guests to join them with pre-roasted turkeys and all the trimmings, since there’s no cooking in the cottages. Today, Cove visitors can even reserve rented portable bonfires from The Beachcomber Cafe online! (not available for Thanksgiving Day).
Years after Crystal Cove became a State Park, Vivian recalled it as a special place where people took care of “the Cove, the community, and each other,” and holiday meals and gatherings are one way to continue this legacy and spirit. On December 2, Crystal Cove Conservancy will host its 21st annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Beach, and The Beachcomber Cafe will serve complimentary hot beverages and baked goods to all. This iconic community gathering takes place right near historic Cottage #15, which has hosted and inspired so many celebrations and traditions over the years at Crystal Cove.