Crystal Cove State Park is a California state park that includes 3.2 miles (5.1 kilometers) of Pacific shoreline, inland chaparral canyons, and the Crystal Cove Historic District of beach cottages. The park sits in Newport Beach and is part of the broader South Coast Wilderness. Crystal Cove is a length of coastal cliffs and a beachside cove located just north of Laguna Beach between the Pacific Coast Highway and the Pacific Ocean. The park, which covers 3,936 acres (1,593 ha), was established in 1979. The park as a whole includes 3 miles of beaches and tide pools, a 1,400-acre marine conservation area with an underwater park, 400 acres of bluffs, and 2,400 acres of canyons.
Until the entrance of the Spanish Missionaries, the region was a collection of local settlements centered on two distinct natural springs. The natives were then drafted to Mission San Gabriel and Mission San Juan Capistrano, which later became known as “Rancho San Joaquin,” until it went into debt and was sold in 1864 to James Irvine, a financier from San Francisco, along with three other ranchers, but when their sheep stock began to fail due to drought, poor wool, and an increasingly competitive marketplace, James Irvine bought out his partners prior to his death in 1876. In 1894, his son, James Irvine II, inherited the ranch and began to extend its productivity by leasing it to agriculturally varied farmers, forming “The Irvine Company.”
Because Crystal Cove was a favorite site for James Irvine II, he permitted his friends, family, and staff to build homes there. As the cottages began to undergo renovations and become more permanent residences, the Irvine Company offered the owners the option of either moving the cottages elsewhere or handing over ownership and allowing the company to lease them. The Irvine Company built these cottages, which were located in the Crystal Cove Community.
The Irvine Company leased a section of the territory to a merchant who supplied propane to coastal farmers in 1927, and it became a camping facility known as “Tyrone’s Camp.” In the 1940s, trailers replaced tent camping, and it was renamed El Morro in 1954. Approximately 290 mobile home trailers on the coastal and hinterland areas served as primary residences for some families with up to four generations. The California Coastal Commission, which purchased the property in 1979, evicted the tenants and demolished the El Morro Village mobile home park in 2006, converting the private community into a day-use and overnight campground after 26 years of litigation.
The area was renovated to include a tourist information center, beachfront dining areas, a cultural center, museums, and the Park and Marine Research Facility. Within the park, the Crystal Cove Historic District, a National Register of Historic Places site, contains 46 beach cottages from the 1920s and 1930s, 29 of which have been restored. There are 21 cottages available for rent.
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