The Cottage in Crystal Cove Hollow: Cottage 00 — “The Office”

Crystal Cove was a natural paradise discovered by artists, tent campers, and the silent film industry more than a century ago. From as early as 1917, movie studios planted palm trees to make the Cove even more cinematically tropical. It’s believed that every palm at Crystal Cove was planted by a Hollywood studio, including the towering ones still standing in front of Crystal Cove’s first permanent structure: Cottage #00, or The Office and Visitor Center.

The construction of the Office marked the beginning of a new era for Crystal Cove — the introduction of on-site management. Built in 1925 as a hub for the growing silent film and camping operations, The Office was first run by E. Roy Davidson, a Hollywood Technical Director hired as the Cove’s first manager by James Irvine II. Davidson constructed the one-room office with the help of his friend Merrell Wood. Cove folklore says that Merrell Wood’s wife Elizabeth (“Beth”) Wood gave Crystal Cove its name because of the cove’s “crystal clear” water.

After the height of the silent film era, The Office continued to serve as the logistical base for ongoing Cove business: scheduling campers, collecting rent, responding to emergencies, and enforcing evolving regulations. Subsequent managers tinkered with The Office’s original design, adding living quarters to the back and moving business operations forward to a new glassed-in porch.  The mail slot once used for delivering rent checks is still in place. This vernacular architecture was typical of all the cottages, with quirky and charming results. There were no interior hallways in The Office, and the bedrooms could only be accessed from the outside.

Several different managers lived and worked in The Office over the decades, and their memories share both the joy and challenge of their unique job. As on-site residents, they were part of the Cove community, but they also had to enforce the rules and handle emergencies and trespassers. One longtime manager, Laura McMenomy, re-purposed an airport landing light and loudspeaker into an improvised roof-top security system. While Laura’s security system is gone today, her antique maple piano remains in Cottage #00, donated to The Office’s modern life as Crystal Cove’s Visitor Center.

Today, the French doors of the yellow cottage open to a wealth of historical and ongoing information about Crystal Cove. Docents report that many visitors are inspired to share their own stories of connecting to this special place, and for nearly a century, the little yellow cottage called The Office has been welcoming new visitors to discover and fall in love with Crystal Cove.

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