Solana Beach author releases new book on Rancho Santa Fe architect Lilian Rice


Award-winning author Diane Welch has released a new book, “The Life and Times of Lilian J. Rice, Master Architect (Schiffer Publishing, December 2015).

Depression-era California master architect Lilian J. Rice left behind homes rich in innovative architectural craftsmanship, both retreats of beauty for those who lived in them, and now markers of great historical significance. Architect to some of the nation’s wealthiest achievers in the first half of the 20th century, Lilian Rice has posthumously become a controversial figure. A woman in a man’s world, she was given an unprecedented opportunity in 1923 when her employer asked her to oversee the design of Rancho Santa Fe, a Southern California master-planned community catering to the rich and famous.

In recent years, critics have depicted her as deceptive, leading her clients in Rancho Santa Fe to believe she was a licensed architect, to gain their trust and lucrative commissions. Did Lilian Rice misrepresent herself on her way to architectural fame, or is she being unfairly labeled to discredit and devalue the work?

Despite the controversy, 11 of Lilian Rice’s homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, scores more are county landmarks, and several garnered her honor awards from the American Institute of Architects. This book uncovers the truth about the obscure architect, introduces her clients that include some of Hollywood’s brightest stars, and tells of the exciting times in which she lived.

Through a decade of investigative research, and scores of interviews, Welch has “produced an accurate, engaging account of the life and times of the obscure architect, those who entered into her world, and the zeitgeist of her era. Through the genre of literary journalism, Welch combines her memoir, the biography of Rice, and the recollections of locals to produce a fascinating volume that will have readers riveted. The book’s foreword was written by Audrey Geisel, president of the Dr. Seuss Foundation, and testimonials include praise from Dame Zandra Rhodes, Jenny Craig and Paul Ecke III.”

Welch, a Solana Beach resident, is an award-winning author, reporter and local historian. Her last book, Lilian J. Rice, Architect of Rancho Santa Fe, California [Schiffer 2010], took top honors at the 2011 San Diego Book Awards in the biography category. Welch is a former freelancer writer for this newspaper.

Welch will discuss her book at the Rancho Santa Fe Library on Thursday, May 19, at 11 a.m.

Visit to learn more. Unsigned copies of the book are available through Schiffer Publishing at and signed copies of the book can be obtained via email at or through facebook

— Submitted press release.