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Restoring California Cottages

Tucked into beachside bluffs just an hour south of Los Angeles, the 46 quirky cottages at the Crystal Cove State Park Historic District are finally getting their due. These last intact examples of early California vernacular architecture, which are celebrated in the new coffee-table book Crystal Cove Cottages: Islands in Time on the California Coast (Chronicle Books, $35), were first pieced together in the 1920's out of salvaged materials by an eclectic assortment of squatters, CEO's, plein-air painters, and beach bums. For decades, the free-spirited community flourished, held together by common interests—luau parties and sunset cocktails chief among them. But the festivities came to an abrupt end in 2001 when the California State Parks department evicted the residents. A proposal for an exclusive beach resort met with protests, at which point the parks department adopted an alternate plan: restore the cottages to their kitschy 1930's and 40's glory, and open 13 of them for overnight stays. The restoration is almost complete; rooms will be ready for guests this fall. Rates will be capped at $150 per cottage, so anyone can live out a California Dream, if only for a night. For more information go to www.crystalcovealliance.org.

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