Contenders for the San Diego Book Awards have recently been announced with Diane Y. Welch’s monograph, “Lilian J. Rice: Architect of Rancho Santa Fe, California” [Schiffer, 2010] selected as a finalist in the biography category. A Solana Beach-based author, Welch is also a public speaker and biographer who is a regular contributor to the Solana Beach Sun, the Rancho Santa Fe Review, Carmel Valley News, Del Mar Times and the La Jolla Light. For more than a decade Welch has written community features on hundreds of local personalities and several international celebrities, which include Glenn Close, Diane Keaton, Dave Stewart, Katherine Crosby, Zandra Rhodes, Eleanor Antin, and more.
Welch wrote the first monograph on this little-known lady architect after research on Rice, for inclusion in a story on the San Dieguito Union High School — a 1936 Rice design — proved an impossible task. “I went to the library to find a book on Lilian J. Rice for reference and could not find one single volume written about her,” said Welch. “ I felt very strongly that here was a most significant woman in our nation’s history that needed to brought out of the shadows. So I wrote that book!”
Four years of research, poring through newspaper archives, conducting dozens of interviews with old timers, and the gifting of a large collection of vintage photographs by Tom Clotfelter, the Spurr Family, and Miriam Sellgren, helped bring Rice’s story to light. Welch is designated as Lilian J. Rice’s official biographer by family descendants who aided with the research.
Known locally for her work in Rancho Santa Fe, where she was resident supervisory architect in the 1920s, Rice designed for movie stars and the nation’s wealthy. However, her accomplishments have been largely unrecognized beyond the Ranch’s 92067 zipcode. Rice’s work actually spanned the county and one of her last projects was an elementary school in South Chula Vista built in 1938. The school was renamed the Lilian J. Rice Elementary School after Rice died later that year.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of Chula Vista’s cityhood. By way of celebration, the students at Rice elementary school interviewed Welch about their school’s namesake. Captured on video the interview will be publicly shared with Chula Vista city officials, teachers and students on May 18, when Welch will appear as guest of honor and speak to the audience about Lilian J. Rice’s important contributions to the county’s history.
All are welcome to meet and greet Diane Y. Welch locally at the Solana Beach Libary’s “Afternoon with the Authors” at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 21.