Cloned

How did a pair of all-steel X-100 'Eichlers' find their way to the Louisiana bayou?
Cloned
Cloned
The mystery behind the original X-100 Eichler of San Mateo (above) and its Louisiana look-alike (top), both built during the 1950s, took us back to the bayou town of Lafayette.

It was an eye-popping wonder. When developer Joe Eichler's X-100 all-steel house touched down in San Mateo Highlands in 1956, though not quite the spaceship its name suggested, it was hailed as the house of the future.

With its steel frame and steel roof and plasticized walls for easy cleaning, the X-100 was called by Eichler "a research laboratory for testing new design concepts, new materials, and new technologies of construction."

Unlike most of the 11,000 homes Eichler would build in his career, this was not a tract model. The X-100 was one of a kind.

Or was it?

Last fall Joe Barthlow, an Oregon designer and student of mid-century design, spotted online a photo of a house that looked like the X-100, only it wasn't in San Mateo. It was on the edge of the bayou in Lafayette, Louisiana.

There it was, the X-100—the same flat, oh-so-thin steel roof, the same concrete block courtyard wall. But the setting!

While the 'real'—if you'll excuse the term—X-100 is nestled between two homes on a typical small lot in an Eichler subdivision, its Lafayette clone at 405 Beverly Drive sits on a grassy expanse with lots of breathing room around it.

Cloned
Cloned
The rear of the Louisiana X-100 (top), and the original Eichler X-100 (above).

How did the X-100 come to replicate itself in Louisiana? And not once but, apparently, twice?

A check at the archive of architect A. Quincy Jones, who designed the original X-100 with partner Frederick Emmons, only deepened the mystery. The Jones archive at UCLA, one of the most extensive for any architect—67 boxes (33.5 linear ft.) plus 1,800 oversized boxes—shows no such project.

Online sleuthing produced two names associated with ownership of the Louisiana house on Beverly—and very Louisiana names too—John Rogas and Edmond Dugas.

A message left at a restaurant chain where Rogas is a manager produced a quick call back. The conversation confirmed that what we were dealing with was no mere shell of an X-100, but the same house inside and out.