Eichler House Numbers

Essential tips and a homegrown method for restoring an important detail to your exterior

house numbersAs part of the recent resurgence of interest in all things Eichler, many homeowners have expressed interest in finding a source for original-style house numbers. While it's certain that Eichler did not use the same style numbers throughout his 25-year building career, it does appear that at least in the latter half of the '50s, and extending into the '60s, the same style was employed in a many subdivisions, although not exclusively. (It appears that there was more than one style for new owners to chose from, but the exact number of choices is unknown.)

Sunnyvale homeowners Leslie and Tod Fitch (shown below right) were attracted to the simple, clear style of the Eichler numbers they observed on some of the houses in their Fairbrae subdivision. Unable to find a commercial source, they decided to create their own.

The Fitches' first step was to determine what font Eichler used. Leslie applied her graphic design expertise to the problem and evaluated a number of likely looking fonts. She created templates on a transparent film of various fonts using Quark, a page layout application (Pagemaker or Photoshop could also be used). Placing the templates over original numbers on neighboring homes, Leslie got a nearly exact match from the font, Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Bold Extended, 239 point, which she vertically scaled to 92 percent. (This font is available from Berthold, on the web at www.bertholdtypes.com) Point size and scaling may vary depending on the software application used.

Leslie and Tod Fitch

Leslie then carefully measured the dimensions of the various components. There are three layers incorporated in the overall design, each measuring .5 inches thick. Each number was mounted on a 2.8 inches wide x 3.3 inches high block. The blocks were spaced .5 inches apart along a base piece running underneath. The base piece measured 2.5 inches high and 13 inches wide (if the address contains four digits), resulting in the top and bottom of the number blocks overlapping the base. The first and last numbers were aligned with the left and right edges of the base (See this diagram in PDF format, courtesy of Leslie Fitch. Similar number dimensions and overall style are found in another Eichler subdivision, The Highlands of San Mateo).

Tod used the transparent template that Leslie had printed out from her computer as a pattern to follow while cutting the numbers. He glued the template to a piece of half-inch thick fir and carefully cut out each number with a coping saw, a process that took only minutes. While the blocks and base piece can be attached using small finishing nails, to avoid splitting the numbers a waterproof wood glue is likely a better method for mounting.

house numbers close up To provide sufficient contrast between the white numbers and the mounting blocks, Todd painted the number blocks a dark color that matched his fencing, which in his case is an original Eichler tone. For the base piece, he used the same color as the house. (Keep in mind that if the blocks are painted to match the overall house color, the numbers do not appear prominent enough from the street and the design lacks visual impact). The result is a virtually identical copy of the original design.

Why so many Eichler homes no longer have house numbers in their original style is unclear. Possibly the numbers weathered poorly. While the numbers in the San Mateo Highlands appear to be made of wood, Leslie feels that those in her neighborhood were cast in plaster or some kind of ceramic material. Based on conversations with her neighbor, who is an original owner, Leslie knows that these types of numbers were not used on all the homes in her subdivision, and that more conventional-looking metal numbers were also used. But Leslie finds herself more than satisfied with the re-creation she and Tod fabricated, saying, "It adds a real mid-century modern touch" to their 1958-era home.