Fairbanks Ranch opens Lilian Rice Pump House


About 50 homeowners and many new Fairbanks Ranch residents attended the Aug. 13 opening of the community’s renovated Pump House, originally designed by architect Lilian Rice.

Rice historian and author Diane Welch, Cass Kaminetz of the RSF Historical Society and Molly Crabtree, the granddaughter of the original Fairbanks Ranch manager and orchardist William Smart were all in attendance.

The Pump House’s origins go back to 1926, when screen actors Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford purchased 3,000 acres of land and named it Rancho Zorro. The land was part of the Old Rancho San Dieguito grant situated near the San Dieguito River. Fairbanks built his own dam and lake to irrigate the mass of Valencia oranges they planted.

Fairbanks had promised to send his Valencia oranges to his European and Hollywood friends but the citrus grew too slow and Fairbanks had to purchase from other orchards to fulfill his promise.

Fairbanks commissioned Rice to design the Pump House to house the pumps to feed the citrus irrigation system from the lake.

In the late 1930s Fairbanks claimed that Rancho Zorro was the largest privately owned citrus orchard in California. As citrus products improved, the house was no longer needed for the pumps. A plaque was added in honor of Rice.

Today the Pump House has been renovated and is planned as an intimate community amenity. A monthly calendar of set planned activities such as bridge, chess, and garden club is being developed. A cocktail hour featuring both Fairbanks’ and Pickford’s favorite cocktails and wine tastings are planned.

It is the perfect environment for residents of Fairbanks Ranch to plan their own “farm to table” dinner party with the views and sounds of the waterfall.—Fairbanks Ranch HOA report