The Cottage at San Clemente State Park

The Cottage at San Clemente State Park On the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, within San Clemente State Park, there is a historic Spanish cottage that is used for events and wed- dings, and it is only there because of the Long Beach earthquake of 1933. San Clemente State Park, at the south end of town, was established in the 1930s during The Great Depression.

The park and used mules and carts to haul the materials from the destroyed mansion to the state park. The original mansion was built by Thomas Murphine, who was also one of the three founders of San Clemente. He became the first mayor, serving from 1928 to 1934.Today, if you drive by the location of the original campground sit along a mile of ocean- front that was originally planned to be developed as part of the town. Hamilton Cotton, one of the three founders of San Clemente, owned 110 acres, which included the future state park. Cotton’s house was built at the very south end of town, on what is now called Cotton’s Point. His house is the “Casa Pacifica,” which was the Western White House when President Richard Nixon owned it. Nixon lived there until 1976. Cotton’s plans of developing the land came to an end with the economic crash of 1928. The Great Depression changed the future of the land, and it became a state park instead.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was started during the Depression to provide jobs for the many unemployed Americans to help build infrastructure, including roads, bridges, dams and parks. These work ers built the trails and walls in the park in the early 1930s. A huge earthquake in 1933 gave the Civilian Conservation Corps an opportunity to build a caretaker’s cottage in the new state park. This cottage was once a part of a mansion on the cliffs of San Clemente, a mile north in the southwest part of town. The mansion fell over the cliff a few days after the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Portions of it were salvaged and rebuilt within the state park.The mansion on Calle de los Alamos, you will see the porch, stairs and two pillars sitting on top of the cliff, but the land drops off beyond the porch down to the beach below. There is a carriage house that did not fall down the cliff, and today it serves as a home to the residents.

The portions of the mansion that were rescued from the ruins were re-constructed into the cottage that is used for weddings, lectures and events in the state park today. The cottage was used as a caretaker’s house from 1934 to 1994. When it needed major remodeling, a grant was awarded in 1999 to completely reconstruct the cottage in the original “Ole Hanson” Spanish Colonial Revival style of San Clemente. A courtyard was added, and the event center was established. The cottage was reopened to visitors in 2001.

Christine Lampert is a member of the San Clemente Historical Society, as well as the American Institute of Architects (AIA,) and has designed many projects in San Clemente and in California. She has been a professor of architecture at USC, OCC and SCAD Hong Kong. She and her family have lived in San Clemente for more than 46 years.
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