RANCHO SANTA FE — Rancho Santa Fe resident Phyllis Paul was presented with the Ben Dixon Award by the Congress of History on March 4. The award is the highest award given to an individual, recognizing her for her involvement and advocacy in historic preservation in Rancho Santa Fe.
Dixon was the original founder of the Congress of History and holds an annual conference of academic lectures on San Diego and regional history. This year’s theme was They Made a Difference: The Unsung History of Women in the San Diego Region.
Paul is a California native and a graduate from Stanford University. She and her husband and children moved to Rancho Santa Fe in the early 1970s. Paul had a keen interest in historic homes and sites and fell in love with the romanticism and rich history of Rancho Santa Fe, the original Rancho San Dieguito land grant to Don Juan Maria Osuna.
Early on she became involved in the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. Her first project with the Society was to conduct a survey of historical homes and commercial buildings mostly designed by master architect Lillian Rice. The Society was also responsible for getting the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant on the California State register in 1989.
In the summer of 1990 the Society and the Association invited the Historic American Building Survey team from Washington, D.C., to spend two months documenting their surveyed buildings, which resulted in the National Register listing of several buildings in the Village. The project was captured in their elegant book entitled, “Rancho Santa Fe: A California Village,” now in its fifth edition.
Paul founded the Historical Preservation Committee of the Rancho Santa Fe Association, which continued surveying and monitoring properties in the Ranch. She also authored a guide of significant historic buildings, Historic Homes & Buildings in Rancho Santa Fe.
The cradle of history of the Ranch, the Osuna Adobe, circa 1830s, was threatened by overdevelopment. Paul led the charge for the Association to acquire the site from the developer with the intent to preserve and interpret its history. She has served on the Osuna Committee for the last five years, and is in the process of organizing the Osuna Amigos Foundation, which will be the guiding entity for funding and the restoration of this significant adobe.