First piece of new Lilian Rice statue arrives in the RSF Village

A rock arrives in the Rancho Santa Fe Village park for the new Lilian Rice statue.
(Karen Billing)

Statue will be unveiled on Oct. 23 before Roaring 20’s Gala


Waylaid several times due to the pandemic, the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society finally moved ahead on the placement of a new piece of public art honoring a local architectural icon.

The life-size bronze statue of Lilian Rice, who designed the Rancho Santa Fe community nearly 100 years ago, will be seated on a large boulder in the North Village Park. The statue was generously donated by Rancho Santa Fe resident Jenny Freeborn and sculpted by Fairbanks Ranch artist Nina de Burgh.

Architect Lilian Rice
(Courtesy of RSF Historical Society)

Southwest Boulder and Stone delivered the 8,200-pound stone base for the statue via crane to the park during the early morning of Sept. 30. Historical Society members had taken many trips to the quarry to find just the right shape and color for the stone—selecting a rose quartz that seemed to glow in the early morning sunshine.

Freeborn and Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society board members John Vreeburg, Peggy Brooks, Kim Snyder, Susie Ault and Max Wuthrich looked on as workers skillfully delivered the large boulder and two smaller stones to the selected spot in the park, near the heart of the civic center she envisioned in the 1920s.

Jenny Freeborn, who donated the statue, snaps a photo of the rocks being placed in the village.
(Karen Billing)

Those walking their children to school or on early coffee runs in the village might have gotten a sneak peek of Rice as she was briefly taken out of a wooden box, took flight and lowered onto the rocks to ensure her perfect seated position on the day of her unveiling. The 350-pound bronze statue will officially be revealed to the public before the RSF Historical Society’s Roaring 20’s Gala on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 5:30 p.m.

Rice is not only a local icon as a San Diego native, she is also a trailblazer for women in architecture: Rice was one of the first women (and 10th in California) to earn a degree in architecture from the University of California at Berkeley.

“As much as an impact Lilian Rice made on the Rancho Santa Fe community, we [also] pay tribute to a woman whose inspiration provided an ongoing impression that stands as the most impactful among architects of her time,” said Vreeburg, president of the RSF Historical Society in a news release.

A plaque will also be placed on the rock with a quote from Rice and recognition of Freeborn’s contribution.

The RSF Historical Society's Roaring 20's Gala will be held on Oct. 23.
(Meg Nobriga)

The RSF Historical Society’s Roaring 20’s Gala will be held at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, designed by Rice as La Morada and the first building in the village built in 1922. The Oct. 23 outdoor event will include a speakeasy-themed cocktail hour at 6 p.m. followed by dinner and dancing to music by Tony Award-winning actor Christian Hoff at 7 p.m. Costumes are optional.

“The (Gala) will be a celebration of the community of Rancho Santa Fe and its humble beginnings, culminating into one of the most admired in the country,” Vreeburg said.

Tickets to the Gala can be purchased online at Ticket pricing is $250 per person, and all proceeds benefit Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. $100 of the ticket price is tax-deductible. For more information, contact (858) 756-9291 or