Eichler's Atherton Home - Page 2

Bound for glory: the original Atherton home in which builder Joe Eichler relived his F.L. Wright experience

As a featured announcement in Eichler Homes' 1953 brochure, the planned Lindenwood Eichler development offered four different three- and four-bedroom designs, and, at $42,500 to $49,500, the priciest Eichlers on the peninsula at the time. After building only three large modern models on nearby Linden Avenue, and another directly across from his own home on Irving, Eichler abandoned his Lindenwood plans, not an easy fit even in his own backyard.

In 1954, as a prelude to Joe and Lillian's plans for redecorating, Eichler Homes' other architectural affiliate, Jones & Emmons, was brought in to revamp the wing of the home containing the pool dressing area, which housed a noisy pump for pool operation, into an all-purpose room. It would be one of the very few modifications to the original house during its 50 years. In the following year, Eichler discussed plans with Anshen & Allen to add a second story onto the house. A rendering was created, but the project, which likely would have affected the persona of the property, never reached fruition.

paul feder

Eichler Homes' shift into urban high-rise development, which began in the early '60s, had financially overextended Eichler by 1965, ultimately driving his company to insolvency. It also factored into the builder's decision to sell the Lindenwood property. "The selling of that house was a combination of some of these emerging financial issues with the company," pointed out Ned Eichler, Joe's son and the company's executive vice-president at the time, "but perhaps primarily it had more to do with my parents spending most of their time in San Francisco at that point." The Eichlers would move from Atherton to the penthouse of the Eichler-built Summit high rise in San Francisco, and eventually commission Claude Oakland to design their second custom home, built in Hillsborough in 1972.

The soft Bay Area real estate market in the mid-1960s did not help to expedite the sale of the house, which, by the time the Feders came along, had been on the market for a year or more. "My impression was over a year," recalled Feder, "though I don't think the Eichlers made a concerted effort during that time to sell it. It was a casual effort. And my understanding is that the price had come down a good deal."

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Feder discovered his future Atherton home through Jonas Harschel, a good friend who, in the early 1960s, was also a salesman for Eichler Homes. Ironically, Harschel had met Eichler for the first time in 1951, in the driveway of the Atherton house, while it was under construction. "Joe was in a bad mood that day," Harschel remembers clearly. "He said to me, standing next to his contractor, 'Look at this! I'm building a $40,000 house, and you can see all the nails in the siding!'"

Nine years later, Harschel found himself on Eichler's payroll, a role that continued until shortly after the Atherton sale. "I knew the Feders had been looking for a house, and almost bought one in Hillsborough—an old Victorian," Harschel added. " I told Paul, let me see if I can make the deal for you. We ended up reducing the price, and Joe asked me to cut my commission in half, which I did."

Paul Feder and his family remain thankful. "When we first walked into this house, we were emotionally struck. I said this place is absolutely beautiful," exclaimed Feder, who purchased the house at a price, near $90,000, he felt was most agreeable. It's now worth millions. "We knew that it was a steal, but we also knew that this house was too radical for most buyers."


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