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The enchanting Village of Rancho Santa Fe is a historic and genteel hamlet with The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe as its cornerstone. The area was originally part of a land grant deeded by Mexico in 1840 to the first mayor of Pueblo de San Diego, Juan Maria Osuna, whose family and descendants lived on the expansive ranchero property for many years. In 1906, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad purchased the land and planted massive groves of eucalyptus with plans to convert the trees into railroad ties, but when the wood proved too soft and the Eucalyptus experiment failed, a new future in citrus unfolded. Surveyor and land expert Leone Sinnard was hired by the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company to create a high-class horticulture development of “gentlemen farmers” to create fruit tonnage for the railways. In 1922, the planned community was born, bearing the name Rancho Santa Fe.
Respected architectural firm Requa and Jackson, the team responsible for the quaint town of Ojai and several Spanish Revival-style buildings in Balboa Park, were enlisted for the project. Their recent hire, Lilian J. Rice, a young San Diego visionary and one of the first women to graduate from architecture school at the University of California, Berkeley, championed the village’s development. Influenced by the original Osuna Mexican adobes in the area, her travels to Spain and Cuba, and her great appreciation of nature and outdoor living, Rice created a village with unique architecture in harmony with the land that remains today.
Rice’s first building, a guesthouse in the Spanish Revival-style was called La Morada, “the house of many rooms.” Originally intended to provide accommodations to prospective property owners, La Morada became the social focal point of the village with its cozy lobby, sunlit patios, commanding position on the hill and epic panoramic views of the natural setting.
Rice’s vision of rustic simplicity and attention to aesthetically pleasing details liken red-tiled roofs, iron work, arched recessed entrances and windows that framed the outside beauty, along with the integration of the natural environment, set the tone for the village and the future resort. In 1940, La Morada was transferred into private ownership and renamed The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, a luxury hotel.
Rice designed and supervised the building of Rancho Santa Fe’s central community from 1922-1928, determined to create the “quiet serenity of a Spanish village.” She also went on to design over 50 private homes that also reflected her style and passion.
Rice declared, “I have 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.”