Comfortable Sophistication in an Equestrian Community – BY PAM MALEY
Only one year has passed since Jerome Strack joined the staff of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe as General Manager. Bringing with him 35 years of experience in hotel management, a genuine likability, and the boundless enthusiasm of an avid horse person, Strack is a perfect fit within the Rancho Santa Fe community.
When asked to enumerate some of his favorite things about the Inn, Strack recounted that
he loves to hear how the comments from his guests echo his own feelings. “Guests often say; ‘The Inn has an intimate feel…We enjoy the comfortable sophistication of the Inn…Its idyllic surroundings make it a quietly romantic place, charming and tranquil…’It’s like being on an island away from the daily hustle and bustle, where time seems to stand still.’ And I agree.”
In discussing the highlights of the surrounding area, Strack was quick to point out the equestrian ambience, “This is truly an equestrian community. The Inn is two miles from the San Diego Polo Club, six miles from Del Mar Racetrack, and four miles from the Del Mar Horse Park Equestrian Facility.”
There are also miles of lovely hiking trails, and it’s six miles from beautiful Solana Beach. But for those who enjoy a good game of golf, one of the most outstanding bene ts to being a guest at the Inn, is access to the private Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. Named one of the top 20 best golf venues by Golf Digest Magazine, and famous for its eminently walkable design, the club is open only to members and their guests, or to guests of the Inn.
DELIGHTFUL COMMUNITY GATHERINGS
To keep the Inn at the heart of the community, track enjoys organizing events that bring the fam- ilies of Rancho Santa Fe to the hotel. The beautiful lawn was the setting for a recent polo demonstration, and, to the delight of the locals, he put in a temporary ice skating rink last winter, an event that will be repeated in ‘cold seasons’ to come.
In sharing his favorite ‘Inn’ stories from his rst year, Strack described driving through the community before Halloween, passing lovely gated estates, “And I wondered: where do the children trick or treat? So I built a haunted house on the hotel grounds and invited the community. We expected maybe twenty or thirty children to show up, but three hundred people came – children as well as parents, all in costume. It turned out to be a great party!”
Wanting to recreate the family spirit of an old-fash- ioned Christmas, Strack brought in a thirty-foot tree and organized a party with decorations, elves, Santa Claus, and marshmallows to roast. Again, the party exceeded expectations, as ve hundred guests came to celebrate the holiday event.
STEEPED IN RANCHO SANTA FE’S HISTORY
In 1840, before California statehood, Rancho Santa Fe was a land grant from Mexico called Rancho San Dieguito. By the turn of the century the property had been purchased by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad for the planting of hundreds of thousands of eucalyptus trees to produce timber for railroad ties. But just over fteen years later the project had proven to be a failure, and the railroad began planning a rural residential community.
A land use consultant was hired in 1920, and taking advantage of the topography, he designed a network of winding roads to maximize the beautiful changing views. He also designed a Beaux-Arts style village at the center of the community, and surrounded it with large residential lots. Two years later, an architectural rm began the work of designing buildings, and noted architect Lilian Rice, a practitioner of the Spanish Revival style of architecture, took over to create, in her words, “a community that would contain the simplicity and charm of a Spanish village.”
On a hill overlooking the village, Rice designed a small guest house where prospective residential buyers could stay. Completed in 1923, it was called La Morada, ‘house of many rooms.’ Over the 90 years since then, while maintaining its character, the small guest house now called The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, has grown to twenty-three acres, with thirteen cottages containing eighty rooms, and twenty-one full residences. Because the amazing grounds and landscaping are so much a part of the hotel’s ambience, each guest room has its own private outdoor space, to enjoy quiet moments amid the lush surroundings.
The residences at the periphery of the Inn property vary in size from 900 to 3500 square feet, and are very much in demand. All are leased, most on long-term leases, with four of them kept available for short-term leases, though none shorter than thirty-days.
A FOXY DISCOVERY
In the 1950’s the Inn came under the ownership of the Royce family, and it remained in their hands until 2012, when it was purchased by its present owner, JMI Realty, who initiated a $12 million renovation. All rooms were refurbished, and the restaurant, called Morada in honor of the Inn’s beginnings, was relocated to the front of the hotel to take advantage of the large terrace and the lush green front lawn that is the pride and joy of the Inn.
When the restaurant moved, the lovely original bar didn’t move with it. Wanting to preserve its history, General Manager Strack (himself a foxhunter) did some research and found that in the 1960s there had been a Rancho Santa Fe Hunt Club, which is now located in Temecula. To honor that heritage, Strack used the original bar to create a whiskey bar that he named The Huntsman, complete with foxhunting decor, often visited by guests in their riding clothes.
After a remarkable rst year, Strack has certainly been a wonderful addition to the Inn. With his innovation and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s superb offerings, the hotel is an endearing entity for its guests and the community.