SOHO receives major bequest from former longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident


Save Our Heritage Organisation, the region’s leading preservation group, has received an estimated $750,000 bequest from the estate of Phyllis Paul, a longtime SOHO member and prominent preservationist of Rancho Santa Fe over four decades.

“SOHO is honored by Phyllis’ generosity and vision in providing unrestricted funds to continue our preservation work. We already deeply miss her dedication, energy, and passion,” said SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons.

“As one of Rancho Santa Fe’s earliest and most ardent preservationists, she was rightly called ‘the conscience of the Ranch and its history.’ We were privileged to join forces with her to assist the acquisition and preservation of the 1836 Osuna Adobe in the center of Rancho Santa Fe.”

Phyllis Hammond Paul was born in Berkeley. In 1931, she was selected for a pioneering lifelong study of 250 children by the Institute for Human Development at UC Berkeley. In 1943, she graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor of arts degree in art and architecture.

Paul moved to Rancho Santa Fe with her husband and children in 1974 and soon became involved in preserving the village’s history and architectural character. Her first project for the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society was a crucial one: a survey of historical homes and commercial buildings, mostly designed during the 1920s by master architect Lilian Rice, in the planned civic center. The survey led to some of the buildings being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Paul continued to lead surveys of additional significant buildings and the monitoring of historic properties after she founded the Historic Preservation Committee of the local governing body, the Rancho Santa Fe Association.

Paul was instrumental in the association’s 2006 purchase of the endangered Juan María Osuna Adobe (1836) and its surrounding 28 natural, rural acres. One of California’s oldest adobes, it still stands on a knoll in the heart of what is now Rancho Santa Fe. During the Mexican period, Osuna was the first alcalde, or mayor, of the pueblo of San Diego, and he divided his time between Old Town San Diego and this rancho. In 2007, SOHO honored the Rancho Santa Fe Association, including Paul, with a People in Preservation Award for acquiring the Osuna property from a developer to ensure its preservation and restoration.

Paul co-edited the book “Rancho Santa Fe: A California Village,” published in 1993 and now in its fifth edition, and wrote a guide to the Ranch’s historic homes and buildings. In 2011, she received the Ben Dixon Award, the highest honor the Congress of History of San Diego & Imperial Counties bestows on an individual, for her leadership and advocacy of historic preservation in Rancho Santa Fe. She was 91 when she died in June 2013.

Since 1969, the nonprofit SOHO has raised awareness and appreciation of our region’s architectural, cultural and environmental heritage. SOHO is nationally recognized as a preservation leader, known for effective community organizing, forged partnerships, negotiating skills, and legal expertise. Among the many landmarks SOHO has saved are the Hotel del Coronado, the Santa Fe Depot, the Villa Montezuma, and Horton Plaza’s Irving Gill-designed fountain, which is on SOHO’s logo. More recently, SOHO successfully led a three-year battle to save Balboa Park from a proposed massive roadway, overpass and parking structure that would have destroyed forever the park’s century-old historical heart.

For information on SOHO’s special exhibitions, tours and events that commemorate the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition all year, visit or call 619-297-9327.