From Supporting Role to Star: Cottage #13 – The Beaches Film & Media Center


The story of Cottage #13 has unfolded like a classic old-fashioned movie, where a character rises from humble beginnings to become a star. Now one of the most photographed and painted cottages at Crystal Cove, and the setting for the 1988 Hollywood film “Beaches,” Cottage #13 was originally a modest screened-in cooking space for campers.

In the late 1920s, six couples regularly camped on the spot where the brown-shingled two-story cottage now stands at the south end of the Historic District. The campers were all friends and happy being on the beach, but after a few years they decided they wanted a separate sand-free space to cook in and have their meals. A few of them built the parts for a small structure off-site in Pomona, and then transported the parts on a flat-bed truck to assemble on their beach site. Four walls made of canvas and screen material enclosed a 10-foot by 12-foot wood floor set on concrete blocks. The original roof was canvas, and the only hint of the charming cottage it would become was a tiny porch.

After a few years, four of the couples gave up camping at the cove, leaving two remaining couples — the Parkers and the Lees. They began converting the primitive structure to a more permanent living space, and added a tiny bedroom for each family on either side of the kitchen. In 1940, the Lee family sold their share of the lease to the Parker family. The family added a bathroom and second-story bedroom, and finished transitioning the one-time cooking shelter into the iconic cottage that would inspire artists, photographers, filmmakers, and beachgoers. The cottage was one of the few at the Cove to remain with one family continuously.

While most of the cottages associated with Crystal Cove’s Hollywood history started as film sets that were later transformed into cottages, #13 was a cottage that was temporarily transformed into a film set. The 1988 film showcased its secluded setting at the south end of the beach, as well as expansive ocean views of Crystal Cove from its charming front porch. The once-humble canvas cooking station had a starring role.

Today, Crystal Cove’s Hollywood heritage endures in Cottage 13’s restored role as The Beaches Film and Media Center. It’s open to the public on select dates throughout the year, as well as on the monthly Historic District Tour, and as part of Crystal Cove Conservancy’s Summer Movie Nights. The iconic front porch is open to the public to visit year-round.

 Don’t forget to join us on our last movie night on August 24th at 8 pm. We will be showing To Have or Have Not and Cottage #13 will be open to the public from 6:30-8pm. 

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