Picture the ‘old west’- Originally an Indian rancheria, Rancho Santa Fe was created by the Santa Fe Land Improvement Company (SFLIC), a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway, who began purchasing all the properties within the old land grant of 1845. The land grant contained 8,824 acres of Rancho San Dieguito and by 1910, the SFLIC began importing Blue Gum Eucalyptus seeds from Australia and planting groves throughout the land. This grand horticultural experiment resulted in the growth of some three million eucalyptus trees, initially intended for use in railroad ties, but later proven to be too soft to hold spikes. Always adapting, the SFLIC pivoted to begin developing the area into a space for the eventual construction of spacious country estates. Renamed in 1922, Rancho Santa Fe was one of the first planned communities in the United States.
Much of the original village design and construction was the result of the work of one of the first females to obtain an architecture license. Visitors to the Village will hear the name Lilian Rice quite often within the the Spanish-influenced community, and many of her buildings still stand today. The community was recognized as a State Historic Landmark (#982) in 1989 and received California Cultural Landmark Status in 2004. The National Register of Historic Places names 11 buildings and homes within the community on their list, all of which can be seen and visited. One of these remaining homes serves today as headquarters for the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. A landmark in its own rite, the La Flecha House was the first residence built in the village (and is so properly designated “Historic Landmark #1”.
Resources of many kinds fill the home where the expert historians from the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society welcome guests with interest to dive deeper into the community’s roots. Their mission is “to collect, preserve, research, and interpret the documents, photos and artifacts that connect us to Rancho Santa Fe and its past.” On my visit there, I met Sharon Alix, the Society’s Administrator. Along with her RSFHS associates, Sharon enjoys helping visitors explore the abundance of books, pamphlets, and maps on hand. She also has quite the collection of unique stories about the community. My personal favorite part of the RSFHS visit was seeing all the aged documents and photographs available for all you visual learners out there like myself.
To explore the community history beyond the walls of La Flecha House, guided walking tours are available at the Historic Society by request. Of course you can also use the Society resources as a jumping off point to explore the rich history on your own. Either way, if you haven’t been, drop in or check out their website today! www.ranchosantafehistoricalsociety.org
Lastly, if you’re interested in the history of Rancho Santa Fe and surrounding areas, make sure to subscribe and check back to this blog frequently. Aside from outstanding real estate info and advice, we’ll continue to look deeper into the stories that are a such an important part of what makes our communities great!