SideDoor continues a long and colorful history at Five Crowns, a charming replica of Ye Olde Bell, England’s oldest inn.
In 1936, Corona Del Mar was almost undeveloped. This allowed Matilda MacCulloch, the American wife of a Scottish nobleman, to buy land there at a bargain and build the Hurley Bell, the original name for Five Crowns, fulfilling her dream of recreating an English country inn and restaurant in Orange County.
Matilda and her daughter operated the Hurley Bell as a bed and breakfast. With its bedrooms upstairs, bar and restaurant downstairs and secluded beach location, the inn soon became a discreet hideaway for the Hollywood stars of the 1940s. Its guest list included honeymooners Peter Lorre and his wife and the ill-fated lovers Howard Hughes and Rita Hayworth. Through the years, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall set local tongues wagging when they visited. In time, the Hurley Bell became a Corona Del Mar landmark and veritable star in her own right.
The glitz and glamour ultimately faded and the once regal Hurley Bell fell from grace as rumors circulated about illegal gambling in her bar and the small bungalow next door. Furthermore, some suspected that certain prohibited “business transactions” occurred in her upstairs bedrooms.
In 1963, Richard N. Frank, President of Lawry’s Foods, and his wife, Mary Alice, toured the English countryside exploring its old coaching inns. A year later, inspired by their visit to Ye Olde Bell, Richard purchased and renovated the Hurley Bell and furnished the interior with authentic antiques from England. The restaurant was the fifth in the Lawry’s family and so, in 1965, the name was changed to Five Crowns and thus began Orange County’s most popular fine dining tradition. Five Crowns continues to attract famous guests as well as resident ghosts of good times past that wander the halls and back garden.