Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holiday Season

Where did 2012 go?

It always comes as somewhat of a shock when I sit at my desk to write the final blog post for the year. The past 12 months flew by and, no doubt, so will the next. I’m relieved to note that the world did not end, but as a result I’ll have to pull up my boot straps and hammer out several news stories that are pending before the end of December. But at the top of my list is my blog.

My daughter, Juliana, a freshman at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, returned home for the holidays. and what a bright light she is in our family. Following a major in landscape architecture, Juliana made the Dean’s list for this first semester proving that she is off to an excellent start and thriving in her new environment. On her return home, she sketched out a lovely work of art that reminds us daily to feel, and show, our gratitude to each other.

Setting the Historic Record Straight


The beautifully restored headstone of Lilian Jeannette Rice
Today, December 22, is the 74th anniversary of Lilian Rice's passing and I am so grateful for those who stand by my shoulder and continue to support my efforts to uphold Rice's fine reputation and to shine a light on her work. This year has proven to be a stellar one with a major project being the correction of Lilian Rice’s headstone. For many years the headstone was inscribed with 1888 as her birth year. This modification could not have been done without the generosity of several individuals who contributed funds for the installation of the headstone and a public advertisement that records the event. Heartfelt thanks go out to Miriam W. Sellgren, a living descendent, by marriage, of the Rice family, who funded the installation, and Tara Tarrant of La Jolla Stone Etching, who did such a beautiful job on the correction to the headstone. Additional thanks go out to Jim Thomas, whose mother, Bertha Kreuziger, worked alongside Rice in the 1920s in Rancho Santa Fe, Cindy Klong of the Rancho Santa Fe Fine Art Guild, the Rancho Santa Fe Pharmacy and Gift Store–who are the exclusive retailers of my book on Rice, and Holcombe Homes, whose combined efforts underwrote the advertisement.

The historic event gained some media exposure. Here is a link to a press release published in the RSF Review, an article published in,  and coming soon will be the link to a UT San Diego article that will run next week. The correct date on Lilian Rice’s headstone is a huge step forward in preserving history that is accurately documented. Next on my to do list of corrections to the historic record is the amendment of the spelling of Lilian Rice’s name on many official historic registers, notably the National Historic Register and the Register of Local Historic Resources, both of which have documents filed that have major flaws. Thanks to Scott Moomjian for his advice on who to contact to make this official. 

The Ecke Ranch house

The Lilian Rice designed Ecke Ranch house almost completed, 1935
An ink scratchboard sketch of the home after the 1969 remodel.

How the ranch house looks today

The Ecke land deal is set to close and the Lilian Rice ranch house will have a new owner: Leichtag Foundation. It has been a privilege to delve into the storied past of the ranch house that was built during the depression by Lilian Rice. The home has undergone two remodels since its initial construction in 1935. One was by John Minchin, in 1969, and the second by Stuart Resor about 20 years later. Of interest is that Minchin had strong ties to Lilian Rice. His mother, Marjorie Smith, lived in National City and was a neighbor of the Rice family. She was a child when Lilian was active on the design and construction of Rancho Santa Fe and retold to her son the story of how Lilian would drive up to the ranch and take her along for the ride. This rare first-hand recollection adds weight to my argument that Rice should be credited for the design and the implementation of the design of the village of Rancho Santa Fe, and not be labeled as someone who lied about her involvement to deliberately mislead others to gain more lucrative commissions. This is a gross error and a misrepresentation of Rice’s fine character.

Another notable factoid is that Stuart Resor retold to me a conversation that he had with Paul Ecke Sr., at the time the biggest supplier of poinsettias in the world. When Resor asked him what was the most memorable aspect of his life, Paul Sr. replied modestly that seeing Halley’s Comet streak through the sky in 1910 was his most cherished memory.

The William Krisel Papers 


Rice's rendering for the proposed Krisel Family home in Rancho Santa Fe
Yours truly with Bill, in 2009
If you have read my earlier blog posts you’ll know that retired award-winning architect, William Krisel, is both a Lilian Rice fan and a friend of mine. During the same time that Rice was designing the Ecke Ranch house and the San Dieguito Union High School, she was drawing up designs for the proposed Krisel ranch home in Rancho Santa Fe. Although the home was not built, Krisel never forgot the advice given by Rice who admired the then 11 year old’s ability to sketch out changes to the floorplan. The Krisel family lived in Shanghai at that time. “You should become an architect,” she advised. William heeded that advice and in so doing became one of the most prolific architects of the twentieth century. Now William Krisel’s archive is available to the public for the first time. It is held at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Follow this link to, then scroll down to read an in depth article on Krisel’s collection. “By some estimates, he and his partners are responsible for more than 40,000 units of housing in Southern California, bringing the aesthetics and values of casual indoor-outdoor living to the masses,” notes Laura Dominguez.

Walking Tours of the Village of Rancho Santa Fe

A hand tinted period photograph of the service station in the village of Rancho Santa Fe, circa 1927
Looking ahead to 2013 I will be offering personal guided walking tours of the village of Rancho Santa Fe. The first takes place in the New Year, and was my donated silent auction item to benefit the Rancho Santa Fe Senior Center. Going forward a portion of the proceeds of these tours–which will be modestly priced and will include refreshments and a video viewing of Rice’s work–will benefit the RSF Senior Center. There will be opportunities for sponsorship, so please contact me via email for more information.

I welcome followers of my blog, and if you have a blog that you'd like me to follow, I'm happy to reciprocate. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. Look out for my next blog in spring 2013 when I will have some exciting news!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Forward

Now that fall is officially here I’m looking forward to busy months ahead with presentations booked in October and November, oral histories to conduct, and two books at the proposal stage.

In the news
The new owners of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe have begun their upgrades and renovations. The Inn’s sale was finalized in April and while the purchase price is confidential, the seller’s broker has estimated the sale would fetch a price in the low- to mid-$30 million range, according to an April RSF Review article. What is widely known is that the new owners will spend $12 million on the renovation. The new ownership group–which includes Rancho Santa Fe residents John Kratzer and John Moores–is passionate about preserving The Inn as “a true community asset and ...a hub of activity for residents, enhance traditions and bring a whole new set of visitors in to experience Rancho Santa Fe,” as noted in this week’s Review.

Perhaps the remodel will take the fireplace, which was modernized in the 1960s, back to its 1923 glory!
When I spoke recently with Dan Martorano of MKA Inc., the lead architectural services who will do the renovations, he said that they wanted to recognize Lilian Rice’s role in the original design of The Inn and to elevate her stature as an important creative element in the success of Rancho Santa Fe. Her little duplex home on the grounds of The Inn, now known as Wisteria Cottage, will be given special attention with touches to the interior that will reflect her personal history. It was exciting when John Kratzer spoke to me and welcomed my input on Lilian Rice’s background and the role she plays in The Inn’s history.

The San Dieguito Academy

Sara Motamedi's beautiful sketch that faithfully recreates Rice's original rendering.
Over the summer I was interviewed by Mike Lewis a reporter who was crafting a feature piece on the proposed November bond measure–Proposition AA–that would raise funds, in part, for the renovations of the Lilian Rice designed high school, formerly San Dieguito Union High School. If approved, the approximate $448 million borrowing plan would pay for technological upgrades, campus renovations and a new middle school. Here is a link to his story that ran recently ran in North Coast

Mitt and Anne Romney

Fin de la Senda, La Jolla. Home to Mitt and Anne Romney
Last month I was privileged to meet up with three special people, two sisters and a brother, who once lived in what is now Mitt and Anne Romney’s ocean front home in La Jolla, the former residence of Mrs. Charles E. Sterns. The family–The Lipes–lived there from 1956-1976. It had only been altered slightly at that time, a room addition had been constructed near the kitchen to create a family room, they told me. In the 1980s when the Van Buskirks owned the house, “they remodeled extensively, making the gracious layout a little more 'modern', ” said Susanna Lipe Aalbers who has photographs of how the home originally looked with most of Lilian Rice’s design work intact. She has very kindly offered to share them with me later this year when she returns to town from her second home. Evidently the interior of the original home, affectionately known as Fin de la Sende (end of the path) had a Persian influence with some lovely hand painted tile which has been salvaged. I can’t wait to see the photos which I will of course share with you!

The Ecke Ranch and Leichtag Foundation

The Rice designed ranch house as it looks today after two remodels, one in the 1960s and the other in 1986
With the proposed sale of the 47 acres of Ecke Ranch property which will close by the end of the year, purchaser, Leichtag Foundation, is very excited about also owning the Lilian Rice designed ranch house that comes with the property. For the past five years I have been working closely with Paul Ecke III as his personal biographer and now have the privilege of serving as archivist for the treasured Ecke family and business collections. The Ecke property is in excellent hands with Leichtag, led by President and CEO, Jim Farley, who has a passion for the venerable history of the Ecke family and the property. It is my honor to also be working closely with Jim in documenting oral histories of some of the local people who have been connected with the ranch, especially the Japanese farmers who once tended the nearby acreage. My first interview is tomorrow with Tak Sugimoto. I’m excited beyond words to say the least for this fantastic opportunity.

Proposals and Presentations

To date I have crafted proposals for two books. One, a thorough biography of Lilian Rice, is under review by a respected publisher. The other, a virtual home tour of some of the most impressive Rice estate homes and those inspired by Rice’s designs, is in the hands of my agent. I will let you know in my next blog if either of these projects move forward.

On October 14 I will address the Carlsbad Historical Society at Carlsbad by the Sea Retirement Community. My lecture is titled, Rancho San Dieguito to Rancho Santa Fe. I'll be tracing the story of the former Spanish land grant and its surviving adobe haciendas, through the railroad's failed eucalyptus tree groves, to Lilian Rice's chapter as the supervisory architect who transformed the area into the lovely upscale enclave that remains today. November 15, I'll address a group of local interior designers at the Kravet Showroom in San Diego, my presentation will be on Lilian Rice's life and work.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Lilian

When a headstone is misleading

June 12 will mark the anniversary of Lilian Rice’s birth. As this special date comes around each year it not only represents a marker of time but also a source of frustration for me. It has been widely noted that she was born in 1888. Many local historians and authors continue to inaccurately state her year of birth even though I have written extensively on this unfortunate error and set the record straight in my book. On page 19 there is a legal copy of her birth certificate as evidence. What has added weight to the inaccurate birth year is Lilian Rice’s headstone, located at La Vista Memorial Park Cemetery in National City, which shows a year of 1888. When I inquired at the cemetery about the oddity of this unfortunate error and how it could be so, I discovered that when the Rice family headstones were vandalized several years ago, well-meaning volunteers replaced them to make each uniform in size and type and free of graffiti. Unfortunately it was at this point that the error in the year of Rice’s birth was made. It is a goal of mine to replace the headstone with one that is etched with the Rice’s actual year of birth. If anyone is interested in donating to a fund to pay for the necessary costs involved, please let me know. For the record Lilian J. Rice was born in June 12, 1889 and died December 22, 1938. She was 49 years old.

“I found real joy at Rancho Santa Fe. Every environment here calls for simplicity and beauty: the gorgeous natural landscapes, the gently broken topography, the nearby mountains. No one with a sense of fitness, it seems to me, could violate these natural factors by creating anything that lacked simplicity in line, and form, and color,” wrote Lilian Rice in an article that was reprinted in the Modern Clubwoman, but originally written for the Rancho Santa Fe Progress in 1928.
Here we are 84 years later and Lilian Rice remains in the shadows of time, yet her contributions to the beauty that is still part of both Rancho Santa Fe’s natural and built environment are as evident today as there were in the 1920s and 30s. However, my personal mission to uphold Lilian Rice’s rightful place in our local history, and also nationally as an important figure in women’s history, continues.

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe starts a new chapter in its storied past

Ink and graphite rendering of La Morada by Sara Motamedi, in homage to Lilian Rice's original drawing.

The sale of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe is now a done deal. After being in the Royce family since 1958, the charming gateway to the Ranch has new owners: JMI Reality, headed up by John Moores who is also the majority owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team. According to a recent article in the Rancho Santa Fe Review the restoration planned for The Inn is expected to cost about $12 million. Delawie Interiors, the San Diego design firm in existence for over a half a century, and MKA Inc. Architecture and Planning of San Diego have been engaged for the restoration.

The San Diego County Fair is back in town

Raquel Welch with my book on the history of the Del Mar Fairgrounds

The annual San Diego County Fair is once again in full swing. This annual showcase of county-wide talent in music, dance, agricultural, floriculture, arts, crafts...frankly the list goes on... is also a major source of entertainment and employment, which has its roots in the very first San Diego County Fair which was held in National City in1880. The book that I co-authored with my husband, B. Paul Welch, and the 22nd District Agricultural Association, traces the county fair from these roots through the 1950s. A fact you may not know about the Del Mar Fairgrounds is that the complex was designed and built by Sam Hamill and his brother, Joe. Sam Hamill was a protégé of Lilian Rice, who used his drafting services for the work she was doing in the design and development of Rancho Santa Fe in the early 1920s. Another fact is that Raquel Welch was crowned the Fairest of the Fair beauty queen in 1958, and appears on my book cover.

A special gift from Bill Krisel

Left is Alexander Krisel, right is Mr. Bishop, agent for the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company

I thought my birthday had come around again when I received a package in the mail from William Krisel, AIA, an architect famed for his mid-century work completed in Palm Springs and Palm Desert, and later for the Coronado Shores luxury highrises in Coronado. According to Bill it was Lilian Rice’s words of encouragement that led him to a very successful and productive career as an architect. Bill has shared with me, in some detail, how Lilian Rice was the chosen architect to build his parents' home in Rancho Santa Fe in 1934. At the time Bill’s father, Alexander, was the US Consul in Shanghai, China and was also the agent for distribution of United Artists films (at that time owned by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Sr.)

Lilian Rice's 1935 colored rendering of the proposed Krisel residence in Rancho Santa Fe

In Bill’s package to me were the back and forth letters from Rice to the Krisels as plans for the home were taking shape, a sketch that Bill had made when he was just ten years old that illustrated some of the amendments to the design that his mother wanted to make, along with a copy of the blue print, the landscape architecture design by Paul Avery, and Rice’s 35 page specification book that notes every tiny detail of the proposed residence and garage. The spec document is a remarkable piece of history that is priceless to me, illustrative not only of Rice’s thorough attention to detail, but also the brands of such fixtures as sinks, bathtubs, heaters and tile. Lilian must have burnt the midnight oil drafting up this lengthy document by hand on a typewriter. Included in the package is Lilian's hand-rendered drawing of the proposed design for the stables. Unfortunately the home and the ancillary buildings were not constructed. Mrs. Krisel was not happy with the school options available for her three boys who were teenagers, and so the family opted to live in Beverly Hills. The irony is that by 1936, a year later, a new school district was formed: The San Dieguito Union High School District. A brand new, state-of-the-art highschool was designed which would have probably served the Krisel boys admirably. Of note is that the school was a WPA project built by none other than Lilian J. Rice.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Almost spring

Spring is almost here and as some of you may know March is designated as Women’s History month. To celebrate, and in recognition of Lilian Rice, I am dedicating this month’s blog to her memory. Please take a moment to remember a woman who influenced your life in a positive way. We each create history everyday, but most of us are not remembered in the public consciousness. However, it does not diminish the impact one person may make. March is also the month of my birthday, and my mother's, so two more reasons to celebrate.

Historic Homes

Bowly and Ethel Le Huray

January and February were busy with presentations and two site visits of historic homes in Rancho Santa Fe. One of the homes is newly known to me and I am proud and honored to be conducting and writing a historic report for the current owner of the 1923 Lilian Rice designed residence located on Paseo Delicias. The home is hugely significant as a local historic resource as it was the first residence to be built by Lilian Rice outside of the Civic Center of Rancho Santa Fe. It began as a small two bedroomed cottage of wood frame and stucco. Typical of Rice it is simply designed with a blend of Hispanic and Pueblo elements. The first owner was Bowly Le Huray, an east coast retiree who owned a printing business in New York. He could well be the “poster boy” for the land company who was the developer of Rancho Santa Fe. Through some investigative work I traced his family line to his grandson who lives in Washington State and was thrilled to get a photograph of the home as it appeared in 1926 with Bowly and his wife Ethel in front of the home.
Two naval officers looking at the rear of the McDonald home, 1945

The rear of the Belle Claggett home, 1945
The second home tour was two historic homes in the Ranch as contenders for the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art’s annual home tour. We looked at the McDonald residence which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Belle Claggett house, which is a Lilian Rice design. The decision has not yet been made if the homes made the cut, but we enjoyed the guided tours of each special home. The McDonald home has a unique history as it was utilized as a convalescent home for ambulatory wounded Naval officers during World War II.

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

The "Living Room" of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
The sale of The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe to JMI Realty has been made public knowledge and the word is that the group want to honor the original Lilian Rice design. I have been invited to give a presentation to the staff and employees at the Inn, to educate, and I hope entertain them, about the important role that Lilian Rice played, not only in the community of Rancho Santa Fe, but also in the architectural fabric of Southern California. Lilian made her home in one of the cottages that is now part of the Inn’s rooms. Known now as Wisteria Cottage it used to be Lilian’s escape from the responsibilities of her role as resident supervisory architect. Her roommate and office draftsman, Olive Chadeayne, in a recorded interview with historian Harriet Rochlin, said that Lilian played the piano in that tiny cottage to relieve work stress. It must have been quite a sight and sound.
Wisteria Cottage, formerly Lilian Rice's home.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A New Year With New Opportunities

  Lilian Rice, Overlooked
Happy New Year to all my devoted friends of Lilian J. Rice. I appreciate your continued interest in our much loved, but little known, local master architect. Unfortunately once again Lilian Rice has been overlooked and did not make it into the Hall of Fame at the Women's Museum of California. But this has not diminished my resolve to spread the important history that Lilian Rice represents when we look back at the development of California's built environment and at Rice's place as a pioneer lady architect who was principal in her own firm. I have hit the ground running already this year with a presentation given to the Carlsbad chapter of the PEO Sisterhood, a philanthropic organization of women which was founded on January 21, 1869. It's mission is "Women Helping Women Reach for the Stars". The ladies were a wonderful engaged audience and fell in love with Lilian Rice who represents everything in a woman that they respect and admire. Looking ahead I was invited to do a future Lilian Rice presentation for the Pasadena chapter.

An unexpected visit

Just before Christmas I met with Cherry Osborne-Brown, a British lady who discovered me and my book on Rice on the internet. I received a surprise email from her in December : "I found your book to my great delight and absolutely loved it.  I am currently doing a creative writing course at the Open University in the UK and wanted to write about Lilian in one of the pieces I will be doing for my course. Could I interview you for my work?" she wrote. You may imagine that I was thrilled that someone from so far away wanted to find out more about me and my passion for Ms. Rice. We met in the "living room" of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, talked each others' socks off and were treated to a pleasant pot of tea and cookies by manager Kerman Beriker.

Big changes at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Have you heard the news that the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe has been sold? The new owner is a firm headed up by John Moores, owner of the Padres Baseball team. A UT article noted that John Kratzer, president and CEO of JMI, stated, "There's tremendous opportunity to renovate the existing hotel and preserve its historic character, and it's a big community asset. It's been well maintained by the owners, but they haven't done major upgrades to most of the rooms in many, many years. It's just ready for a major renovation to provide the kind of finishes and qualities in the rooms that that market expects."
Movie stars like Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Mary Pickford, Bing Crosby, Pauline Neff, Joseph Schenck, Fred Astaire, Victor Mature, David Niven, sports stars, corporate moguls and royalty have all enjoyed the hospitality at the Inn, once known as La Morada--the house of many rooms. The Inn was the first building designed by Lilian Rice, in 1922, as the gateway to the Civic Center in Rancho Santa Fe. A lesser known historic fact is that architect, Frank Lloyd Wright was married at La Morada in 1928, to his beloved Olgivanna, a Russian ballerina. The wedding ceremony took place at midnight on August 25, officiated by Rev. McKnight who brought along his daughter, Evelyn, who was able to share with me her own first-hand account of the wedding ceremony.

Looking Ahead
I was approached by Drexel Patterson, principal of Island Architects in La Jolla, to facilitate agreements with several historic homeowners in Rancho Santa Fe to open up their homes as part of a prestigious home tour during the weekend of September 28/29. So far we have two homes that will be a part of the educational architectural tour organized by the nationally recognized Institute of Classical Architecture and Arts. It is an honor and a privilege to be asked to act as tour guide and local expert on Lilian Rice's architectural work in Rancho Santa Fe.