RSF Historical Society holds annual meeting, ‘Lilian Rice Day’ scheduled for October

A new statue honoring architect Lilian Rice will be unveiled Oct. 22.
A new statue honoring architect Lilian Rice will be unveiled Oct. 22.

On Feb. 16 the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society made a little history of its own with the first annual meeting in the organization’s 36-year history to be held virtually on Zoom. At the meeting, the society announced its slate of officers for 2021 and shared goals for the coming year to continue to preserve local history and connect people to Rancho Santa Fe’s past.

“This year, as everyone might expect, has been quite a challenge throughout as far as operating,” said RSF Historical Society President John Vreeburg.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit faced challenges due to limitations on having the La Flecha House museum open and not being able to do the programs they typically focus on, including field trips with R. Roger Rowe School students, walking tours, home tours, museum presentations and their speaker series. Events like the fall’s Rancho Days were canceled along with most everything else.

In 2020, the historical society collected less dues than in previous years but saw an increase in donations, including $39,635 from the Norman and Peppy Bahr charitable trust. They also received stimulus grants from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

In March, Cass Kaminetz came on board as the organization’s first executive director, aiming to help the society’s plan of strategic growth in membership, community programs and an endowment campaign that will help preserve its valuable archival collection.

Over the past several months the society has been at work digitizing its archives, led by volunteer Lisa Barrier (due to COVID-19 restrictions, no more than three people are allowed in the office at a time). Looking forward to the coming year, Kaminetz hopes to engage more with members and ramp up the archival work—she hopes to make the historical society’s resources more accessible to the wider public online.

She also has a goal to enhance the historical society’s children’s engagement at the museum: “Something free for kids to come by and learn the history of the Ranch and have a little fun,” said Kaminetz who is hoping to secure grant funding for the program.

Perhaps the most anticipated RSF Historical Society project is the statue of Lilian Rice which is slated for the north park of the village green, in front of The Inn she designed to be the heart of the community in 1923. The bronze statue, designed by Fairbanks Ranch sculptor Nina de Burgh, will honor Rice not only for her contributions to Rancho Santa Fe but as one of the pioneering women of American architecture.

“I think it will be a great monument to Lilian and I think it will be a great addition to the community,” Vreeburg said, noting that the statue would not have been possible without the major financial contribution of Rancho Santa Fe resident Jenny Freeborn.

The public unveiling of the statue is now scheduled for Oct. 23. The day will be the first annual “Lilian Rice Day”, followed by a Roaring ‘20s gala at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. A committee led by RSF Historical Society Vice President Peggy Brooks is at work planning the gala at which 1920s attire will be encouraged.

“It’s exciting and I think everyone with whom I’ve spoken has been very positive and wants to be involved and support this community event,” Brooks said. “We’re all ready for a party.”

The Roaring 20s promises to be an emerging theme as Rancho Santa Fe approaches its centennial years. The La Flecha, which houses the historical society, was the first residence designed by Rice for the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company in 1923.

For more on the RSF Historical Society, go to