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What's an Eichler?

From birth I lived in an Eichler home in the Castro Valley hills. I suppose it's true that children can be products of their environment. Growing up in such a unique home in a unique neighborhood shaped me in many ways. My parents sold their Eichler when I was in college but my love for these homes never left me. As an adult I purchased my own Eichler and 6 months later purchased the one next door for my parents to live in.

The question, ”What's an Eichler?” is one I’ve heard my entire life. It’s a question with many answers. Joseph Eichler was a builder of houses so distinctive and recognizable that people simply called them “Eichlers.” But who is the man who built them and why is he a legend? What does it mean to live in an Eichler? What did it mean for many of the original and early owners who purchased in the 50's through the 70's? What does it mean to the generation of people who are now seeking out Eichlers and moving into them today?

What is the allure of "Eichler Living,” as I like to call it?

Beautiful red door with original circular plate behind the door knob.

To start with the basics, Joseph Eichler was a builder of communities. He built his tract homes in the 50's & 60's. (His company Eichler Homes existed between 1949 – 1967.) Eichler Homes are commonly known and recognized by some of their unique features: their floor to ceiling window/walls, their post and beam construction, their atriums, their modest exterior from their street view and their interiors open to nature.

Many things set Eichlers apart from other tract home builders. One difference was his love of architecture and modern design. This led him to hire gifted architects to aid in the design of his homes, a very uncommon practice for builders in that day.

Eichler had lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright house on the peninsula for a short period of time and had said, “I admired Wright’s rich design, with its wooden walls and beamed ceiling, and I asked myself if such houses could be built for ordinary people.” From there his unusual track homes with a mid-century modern flare emerged, evolved and soon made history.

Something else made Joe Eichler so special; his company Eichler Homes became the first large tract home builder to sell homes to African-Americans. One thing commonly overlooked about this fact is its effect on the neighborhoods themselves.

Indirectly this created neighborhoods which tended to be rich in culture and diversity. Obviously not all Eichler owners, but many, were the types of people more open to living with others of different racial and religious backgrounds.

My Castro Valley Eichler neighborhood was being built as California State University at Hayward was being developed in the early 60s. The CSUH president, several vice presidents and deans, and many, many faculty members made their homes in this neighborhood.

But most of all this has been a vital community—neighbors coming together for picnics and holiday parties, to lobby for our own Greenridge Park and a new city library, to share information useful to all.

In Eichler neighborhoods around the Bay, residents continue to enjoy their mid-century modern aesthetic which foreshadowed today’s aspirations for “green” dwellings. There’s something very special about bringing the beauty of nature into each room of the home.

I’m happy to continue to share my enthusiasm for mid-century modern homes and Eichler communities.

Happy Eichler Living,

Nicole Collins
Broker & Owner
4 Rivers Realty, Inc.