"This is the original house," Pardini says proudly. "We have just babied it and taken care of it because we like it so much."
Other than the handful of houses that have been remodeled out of existence, the major changes to the Sacramento Eichlers sit atop their roofs—hipped or sloped caps put on primarily to hide ductwork for heating and air-conditioning. "It's an ugly hip roof," Nadine Crose admits about the change she and her husband, Jack, a retired, politically prominent lawyer, made to the rear of her home.
Much as they loved their house, she says, it never quite worked in Sacramento's climate, which is far more extreme than the Bay Area's. "It's 90 degrees in the fall, then it drops 40 degrees at night," Crose says. The radiant heat would take too long to kick in, she says, then in the morning it would still be generating heat even as the mercury outside climbed.
Today, the homes' original evaporative coolers ('swamp coolers') are long gone—and so is the radiant heat in almost every home. Foam roofs and double-paned windows have become common.
Among newcomers who are restoring their homes, Tom Graham and Lisa Foster stand out for their thoroughness. They removed and then replaced their original interior mahogany walls after inserting insulation and drywall. "We came here for the Eichler aesthetic, and we want to respect that," Graham says. Foster adds: "We moved here because of our interest in modern design and furniture." For many newcomers, restoring or preserving their homes takes on an almost spiritual aspect.
G Leyva and Kelly Brown, Clyde's brother, bought their home in 2007, even though the mahogany panels had been painted and the original brick fireplace refaced with granite. G hopes to remove the granite. He'd also like to replace the half-wall that once separated the kitchen from the living area, "because it's part of what an Eichler is."
Jim Larson, who grew up in the well-preserved home he now shares with his wife and family, still has the original wall between kitchen and living areas. He'd like to remove it to provide a more spacious feel, but has not. "It pains me to go against history," he says.
His neighbor Tom Sharp, who also grew up in the neighborhood, recently added a large family room to his Eichler—but used similar beams, wood paneling, and siding to retain the Eichler look.
Although the South Land Park Neighborhood Association covers the wider neighborhood as well as the Eichlers, there is no Eichler association and no regulations to protect the architecture. But fans discourage neighbors from remodeling inappropriately.
Dane Henas, who's lived in the neighborhood six years, has seen one too many original garage doors go the way of the dodo. "I'd like to hand out flyers," he says. "'If you are even thinking about it, don't change the garage doors.'" Joel Rice, who owns a copy of an original Eichler homeowners manual, tries a positive approach. "I've copied that manual for half a dozen neighbors," he says.
In many ways, South Land Park today is like South Land Park of the mid-'50s, starting with the prevalence of animals. The Eichlers were among the first houses in the area—farms were nearby—and Marie Pardini remembers that some of her neighbors were noisy. "We used to wake up to the cowbells on their necks," she says.
Then there was wildlife. "I was afraid the pheasants would fly into the windows," Nadine Crose says.
The cows are gone but not the wildlife, some of which emanates from Reichmuth Park, which provides the neighborhood with playing fields, grassy areas, tennis, woodland trails, and a marsh.
"People lose their koi to giant egrets," Jon Hill says. "There's a family of foxes." Migratory birds pass overhead on the Pacific Flyway, he says, and the frogs are so loud in the springtime, you can hear them with the windows closed. Sarah Rice, Joel and Pam's daughter, enjoys the flock of wild turkey that traipse across lawns in the fall.
When Sarah was growing up, the neighborhood was filled with kids, as it was for Jim Larson and Alicia Abels, Marie Pardini's daughter. Their parents—doctors, attorneys, state employees—were Democrats almost to a voter, says Nadine Crose, who used to walk the precinct. She remembers when other Sacramentans called them 'kooks.'