If you take a self-guided walking tour of historic Rancho Santa Fe Village, and you should, make sure you start by chatting with Vonn Marie May. You’ll find her in the La Flecha House, a 1923 Spanish Colonial Revival building that today is home to the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society. May, who is author of several books on the community including Rancho Santa Fe (Images of America), will supply you with a walking-tour pamphlet and map, point you in the right direction, and offer some valuable advice: Take your time. Make your tour of the Village a leisurely one. Enjoy not only the history, but the cool breeze in the park and perhaps a refreshing drink on a bistro patio.
The self-guided walking tour features 16 points of interest, all within the heart of the Village. You can pick up your photo-filled pamphlet and map at the Historical Society Tuesdays through Thursdays, or download your own for touring any other day of the week.
Start with the La Flecha House itself, which May — or your pamphlet — will tell you was the first home in Rancho Santa Fe designed by Lilian Rice, whose architectural vision is seen throughout the Village. Inside you’ll find photographs, documents, and memorabilia galore to savor.
Among other highlights on your walking tour:
• The two-story Joers/Ketchum Store, the first commercial building erected in the Village, in 1927, by private owners (W.E. Joers and H.E. Ketchum).
• The original Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club, built in 1937, and a rare departure from Rice’s architectural style.
• The 1924 Hilton House, at one time Rice’s own home.
• The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, which of course today remains an inn. It was designed in 1923.
• Lush, tree-lined Paseo Delicias, the heart of the Village and the perfect thoroughfare for people-watching.
• The Lilian Rice Row Houses, which Rice envisioned as private residences enhanced by colorful gardens behind high walls.
• The Louise Badger Home, at one time the residence of a soda fountain operator named, naturally, Louise Badger. Today it is an antique store.
Most of your stops along the way now serve different uses than when they were built and can best be appreciated by comparing the old and new photographs in your pamphlet. Or just indulge your imagination and drift back to a time when Rancho Santa Fe history was in the making. (www.ranchosantafehistoricalsociety.org) David L. Coddon