Eichler Houses

28 Nov
 
01- Fairmeadows Eichler Home, 728 E.Glendale Ave., Orange
4 BR, 2 BA Approx. 1854 sq.ft., 8700 sq ft. lot. Built in 1963, designed by Jones and Emmons
02-Jones and Emmons Designed Eichler home in the Fairmeadows Neighborhood
814 E. Ferndale Ave., Orange. 4 Bedrooms, 2 Baths, 1729 sq. ft. living space, not including atrium, 8300 sq. ft. lot
 
     
Joseph EichlerJoseph Eichler (1900 – 1974) was a California-based, post-war residential real estate developer known for building homes in the Modernist style. Between 1950 and 1974, his company, Eichler Homes, built over 11,000 homes in Northern California and three communities in Southern California, along with 3 homes in Chestnut Ridge NY, which came to be known as Eichlers and changed the California lifestyle. During this period Eichler became one of the nation’s most influential builders of modern homes. The San Francisco Bay Area Eichlers are mostly in San Francisco, Sacramento, Marin County, the East Bay, San Mateo County, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and San Jose. The Southern California Eichler communities are in Orange, Thousand Oaks, and Granada Hills. The largest contiguous Eichler development is The Highlands in San Mateo, built between 1956 and 1964.

Unlike many developers of the day, Joseph Eichler was a social visionary and commissioned designs primarily for middle-class Americans. One of his stated aims was to construct inclusive and diverse planned communities, ideally featuring integrated parks and community centers. Eichler, unlike most builders at the time, established a non-discrimination policy and offered homes for sale to anyone of any religion or race. In 1958, he resigned from the National Association of Home Builders when they refused to support a non-discrimination policy.

Eichler used well-known architects to design both the site plans and the homes themselves. He hired the respected architect and Wright disciple Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to design the initial Eichlers, and the first prototypes were built in 1949. In later years, other Eichler homes by other architects emerged, including homes designed by the San Francisco firm Claude Oakland & Associates, the Los Angeles firm of Jones & Emmons, A. Quincy Jones, and Raphael Soriano.

Eichler homes are from a branch of Modernist architecture that has come to be known as “California Modern,” and typically feature glass walls, post-and-beam construction and open floorplans in a style indebted to Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. Eichler exteriors featured flat or low-sloping roofs, vertical siding, and spartan facades with geometric lines. One of Eichler’s signature concepts was to “Bring the Outside In,” achieved via skylights and floor-to-ceiling glass windows looking out on protected gardens, patios, and pools. The homes had numerous unorthodox features, including post-and-beam construction, concrete slab floors with integral radiant heating, sliding doors and cabinets, and a standard second bathroom. Later models introduced the famous Eichler atriums, an entrance foyer designed to further advance the Eichler concept of integrating outdoor and indoor spaces.

Eichler homes were airy and modern in comparison to most of the mass-produced, middle-class, postwar homes being built in the 1950s. At first, potential home buyers (many of whom were war-weary ex-servicemen seeking convention rather than innovation), proved resistant to the new homes, and Eichler faced competition from other developers who used elements of Eichler homes in watered-down, more conventional designs. Though fresh and exciting, Eichler homes never achieved large profits for their creator.

Eichler also built semi-custom designs for individual clients by commission. As a result of soaring land prices in the mid-1960s urban redevelopment projects became popular, and Eichler began building low- and high-rise redevelopment projects in San Francisco’s Western Addition and Bayview, luxury high-rises and clustered housing on Russian Hill and Diamond Heights, as well as the trendsetting co-op communities Pomeroy Green and Pomeroy West in Santa Clara. These large projects began to overextend the company, and by the mid-1960s, Eichler Homes was in financial trouble. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1967.

In recent years, Eichlers have become fashionable again, as part of a rediscovery of American mid-century modern style. Eichler Homes today sell for extraordinary sums, and Eichler-inspired designs are featured in an ever-increasing number of newspaper articles, websites, and even TV commercials.

Media
The Parr family home in The Incredibles appears to be an Alexander home – another tract home development similar to Eichlers.
Eichler houses in Orange, Calif are used to project a very stylistic look in the 2006 independent film: Another Gay Movie
The neighborhood seen in the 2008 film Speed Racer includes a number of digitally-recreated Eichler houses.

References
Jacobs, Karrie (May 15, 2005), “Saving the Tract House”, New York Times.
Adamson, Paul; Marty Arbunich (2002). Eichler Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream. Gibbs Smith Publishers. ISBN 1-58685-184-5.
Adamson, P. (March 2001). “California modernism and the Eichler homes”. The Journal of Architecture 6 (no. 1): 1–25. doi:10.1080/13602360010024804.
Ditto, Jerry; Lannin Stern (1995). Design for Living: Eichler Homes. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-0846-7.

Eichler Neighborhoods
San Mateo Highlands, San Mateo County, California many of the homes in the San Mateo Highlands neighborhood are Eichler homes.
Rancho San Miguel in Walnut Creek, California – A neighborhood with more than 300 Eichler homes

LinksHistory from Eichler Network
Balboa Highlands – Eichlers in Los Angeles, California

Eichler and Mid Century Modern home discussion board
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Eichlers in Southern California

Eichler Design – Homeowners Personal Site

TV commercial featuring an Eichler home

Another TV commercial with an Eichler home in Orange County

 

The Wonderful World of Eichler Homes

JOe Eichler on the jobDeveloper Joseph Eichler and his Eichler Homes, Inc. built nearly 11,000 single-family homes in California, beginning in the late 1940s. In Northern California, they can be found in areas in and around Marin county, the East Bay, San Mateo county, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Three small communities of Eichlers in Southern California stand in Orange, Thousand Oaks, and Granada Hills. In addition, there are three Eichler-built residences in New York state. Together these thousands of “Eichlers” reflect the beauty and uniqueness of the Eichler design and the integrity and daring of the builder behind it. Fifty years later, the house that Joe built endures as a marvelous legacy.

By the mid-1940s, Joseph Eichler had become intrigued by modernist design and in particular one of the creations of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who had designed the Bazett house (Hillsborough, California), a rented home for Eichler during World War II. Triggered by Wright’s inspiration, Eichler began to fashion a vision short on home-building acumen, yet long on modernist aesthetics and his own iron will. Beginning in 1949, when it was still uncommon to find merchant builders engaged with architects, Eichler became engrossed with building communities of homes characterized by both flair and affordability.

Aligning himself with a stable of progressive, empathic architects — first the San Francisco firm of Anshen & Allen, then Jones & Emmons, later Claude Oakland — Eichler realized his dream, styled with imagination. As regional architecture designed for the Bay Area’s benign climate, their house designs befuddled the traditional masses — emphasizing boldness, change, and optimism through indoor-outdoor living, walls of glass, atriums, and radiant-heat floors.

living roomJoseph Eichler passed away in 1974 at age 73. Now, 35 years later, when it comes to painting a picture of Joe Eichler, his family and peers remain clear about what he stood for and what made him tick.

One side of Eichler was a relentless go-getter who knew what he wanted, how to get to it, and how to get around the roadblocks and even his own shortcomings. “Before and even after 1947,” recalled Joe’s son, Ned Eichler, “my father never held a hammer, a saw, or a wrench in his hand. Still, he became a master builder.”

Another side of Eichler’s character was his enormous charm, wonderful humor, and absolute honesty. He refused to be swayed by associates who saw greater profits in design shortcuts and inferior materials. “By making construction easier and less costly,” added Ned, “the architectural principles my father had come to hold dear would have been violated.”

eichler elevationA strong proponent of fair housing and deeply opposed to racial discrimination, the liberal Eichler was the first large, tract builder to sell to minorities, and even built a home on his own lot for an NAACP leader. Joe resigned from the National Association of Home Builders in 1958 in protest of racial discrimination policies and, according to reports from long-time Eichler owners, offered to buy back homes from those who had trouble accepting their neighbors.

“If, as you claim, this will destroy property values,” Joe once told some disgruntled Eichler owners, “I could lose millions…You should be ashamed of yourselves for wasting your time and mine with such pettiness.”

Special thanks to www.eichlernetwork.com

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