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Rancho Santa Fe walking tour offers a glimpse of history

RANCHO SANTA FE — Driving down the streets of the Rancho Santa Fe Village is entirely different than taking a walk through it. On foot, it’s impossible not to recognize the history surrounding this village which predominately highlights Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings.

While The Rancho Fe Historical Society has offered walking tours in the past, it wasn’t until last year that it designed a walking tour map for its visitors. The feedback has been huge.

Dana Evanson, the docent and administrator of the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society, said there are a wide variety of tour guests who stroll through the village.

“We have everything from family reunions, class reunions, people who are staying at the Rancho Santa Fe Inn, members of clubs, university students, people who are attending a convention in town, and some of the Red Had Society ladies,” Evanson said. “I also do walking tours for the Cub Scouts since this is considered a history requirement that they can put under their belt.”

Surrounding communities often take part in the walking tour; Evanson said that a large group of their visitors come from Carlsbad.

The walking tour, which lasts about 45 minutes, takes visitors to 15 different sites. A handful of these locales include the La Flecha House, State Historic Landmark No. 982, Country Squire Courtyard, The Francisco Building, Louise Badger Home, La Valencia Apartments, and more.

Lilian Rice, a 1910 alumnus from the University of California, Berkley, designed many residences, and much of the architecture, peppered throughout the village.

Evanson said the most popular site is the Lilian Rice Row Houses. “They are all connected and built to look like a Spanish village. All of the colors, styles and setbacks are different,” she said, noting how they were built in 1927 for new residents in the ranch.

Evanson calls the walking tour rather self-contained, and people don’t have to travel far on foot to see everything.

“One of the beauties of Rancho Santa Fe is that it’s rural, and I point out to people that there are no street lights,” said Evanson, explaining why visitors love the atmosphere.

As a docent, she also likes people to understand that the architecture in the village acts as a “play of shadow and light” against the adobe.

Evanson enjoys seeing the positive reactions from visitors, and even more, from professional architects and historians who come for tours and give her the opportunity to learn something new.

Evanson takes pride in the fact that visitors enjoy their walking tour of the historic Rancho Santa Fe Village. However, she hopes that, after the tour, each and every person will walk away with another level of gratitude.

“I want guests to leave with an appreciation for preservation, because even now, Lilian Rice homes are being torn down. And once they are gone, they are gone,” Evanson said. “People should really stop and think for a minute about how they can preserve buildings and open spaces for their children, grandchildren, and beyond.”

To learn more about the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society Walking Tours or book a private tour, visit or call (858) 756-9291.