Book traces life of famed Ranch architect

SOLANA BEACH — June 12 marks the launch of the long-awaited book, “Lilian J. Rice: Architect of Rancho Santa Fe, California” by Diane Y. Welch. June 12 is also the anniversary of Rice’s birthday in 1889.
The public is invited to join in a celebration, “The Excitement is Building: The Life, Work and Legacy of Architect Lilian J. Rice” from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Solana Beach City Hall Gallery at 635 S. Highway 101 in Solana Beach.
Welch will be on hand to sign books. She’ll also be screening the Rice documentary, “Sincerely Yours.”
In addition, artist Jennifer Chapman will unveil a masterpiece portrait of Rice in oils.
Rice is best remembered as the architect of Rancho Santa Fe when it was developed in the 1920s and for her interpretation of Spanish colonial revival style, which continues to set the theme for the covenant today. The architecture is distinguished by red tile roofs, arches, outdoor living rooms and patios.
Her influence, however, extends beyond the Ranch to include designing the San Dieguito Academy and historic Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas as well as homes in Solana Beach, Del Mar, Pacific Beach, National City, Chula Vista, Talmadge, La Mesa, Escondido, El Cerrito and Riverside County. These projects reflect a breadth of preferences that include Tudor revival, English country, French country and Storybook-style architecture reminiscent of Disneyland and Hollywood.
“Lilian Rice’s legacy is this beautiful architectural style that has been connected with the architectural fabric of Southern California,” Welch said. “We’ve been focused on the past. I want to celebrate her legacy as it relates to the present and future of architecture.”
The June 12 event will showcase photographs and recreations of Rice’s architectural renderings and floor plans that appear in the book. They were designed by artists, architects and draftsmen who will be in attendance to present their work and answer questions.
Contributors include Bertocchini Photography, Paul Body, Gary Conaughton, Darren Edwards, Christopher Real, Monique Parsons, Vanessa Vanbeusekom, Sara Motamedi and Carol Beth Rodriguez.
In total the book includes 224 pages with 394 images, most of which are color plates. Many are vintage photographs from private collections donated by the Spurr, Ragan and Clotfelter families to name a few.
A biography of Rice might never have been written had it not been for the tenacity of Welch with the blessing of Miriam Sellgren, a direct descendant, by marriage, of Lilian Rice’s brother, John Clinton Rice.
“We endorse Diane wholeheartedly as Rice’s official biographer due to the thorough nature of her research, her passion for, and her clear understanding of, Rice’s life and work, and her willingness to generously share this information with the world,” Sellgren said.
Initial response from readers has been positive.
“Your book is a masterpiece!” said Phyllis Paul, committee member for the restoration of the Osuna Adobe in Rancho Santa Fe. “Your labors and trials culminated in a poignant tribute to Lilian and I am sure she is acknowledging such from her architectural throne in heaven.”
Some might speculate that it was synchronicity that Welch would become Rice’s biographer more than 70 years after her death.
It was in 2005 that Welch happened upon the architect while researching the history of the San Dieguito Academy for a newspaper article she was writing.
“I discovered that Rice had also designed the Ecke’s ranch home in 1936, and I began to realize the significance of this woman’s place in history,” she remembers.
Welch wrote an entry in her journal dated June 12, 2005, “A book needs to be written about this architect and I’m going to write that book.” Subsequently Welch discovered that the date was Rice’s birthday.
Later Schiffer Books set a deadline of Dec. 22, 2009, for the completed manuscript, which is the anniversary of Rice’s death in 1938.
In an unforeseen coincidence Rice’s day of birth and the day she died marked the beginning and the end of the project.
For more information or to purchase a book online, visit www.Lilianjrice.com. The book is also available on Amazon.com.

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