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.