Jobs' Likeler No Eichler

For the record: Steve Jobs wasn’t raised in an Eichler—but partner Steve Wozniak was.
Jobs and Woz
Steve Jobs (right) and Steve Wozniak in the early days.

With the release of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s illuminating biography of the Apple computer co-founder, renewed attention has focused on Eichler homes because of the revelation that Jobs grew up in one in Mountain View.

The internet exploded with the news, as scores of bloggers hurriedly chimed in. Eichler owners everywhere smiled, seeing further evidence that Eichler homes are special.

But don’t gloat. “That house is not an Eichler,” said Ned Eichler, Joe’s son and Eichler Homes’ marketing manager when the Mountain View neighborhood was built in 1955, after seeing photographs of Jobs’ childhood home, on Diablo Avenue.

The exact address of the Diablo house, which was home to the Jobs family from 1959 until they moved to a ranch-style house in Los Altos in 1967, was confirmed against phone company listings.

Ned Eichler’s judgment isn’t the only evidence that the Jobs house, and its neighbors in a small development in the Monta Loma neighborhood, are ‘likelers,’ as fans of Eichler homes often dub the many similar mid-century modern look-alikes by other builders that dot California neighborhoods.

According to several real estate agents who specialize in modern homes in the area, the Jobs house is part of a subdivision by Mackay Homes, a company that built both conventional and modern tract homes in Mountain View, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale.

The Jobs house, in fact, is almost certainly the work of Eichler’s original architects, Anshen and Allen, who designed homes for Mackay as well as Eichler during the period. Mackay homes differ from Eichlers in several respects, including use of materials, use of conventional foundations as opposed to concrete slabs, and forced-air heating as opposed to radiant heat.

“What he [Mackay] did was say to Anshen, I want a modified Eichler,” Ned Eichler says. “Let’s soften it, let’s make it not so pure—words to that effect.”

Although neither an original Mackay sales brochure nor architectural plans for the small subdivision could be found, the homes in the tract are identical to those in a Santa Clara tract that are known, in part because of original sales brochures found there, to be Mackay homes designed by Anshen and Allen.

“It’s exactly the same floor plan,” says Mackay and Eichler realty specialist Eric Boyenga of Intero Real Estate of the Jobs home, comparing it to houses in the Santa Clara tract. “It’s exactly the same house.”

“It is a Mackay,” he says of the Jobs house. “It truly is.”

Steve Jobs home
Steve Jobs’ Diablo Avenue ‘likeler’ home today.
(photo: David Toerge)

Jobs’ original partner in Apple, Steve Wozniak, did indeed grow up in an Eichler—a real one—in nearby Sunnyvale, as first revealed in an article in the winter 2001 Eichler Network newsletter, the precursor to CA-Modern magazine. For 14 years during his childhood, Wozniak lived in the house, which he recalled as “my favorite home ever.”

Wozniak visited Jobs’ Mountain View home, and in a recent interview said it was not an Eichler.

“My wife and I have scratched our heads over that one,” he said, about reports that it was. “We had the same opinion. I never thought of that house as an Eichler in any regard and never heard it called an Eichler. Having lived in an Eichler myself, I was very familiar with the look and architecture.

“I suspect that Steve told some reporter or author about Eichler homes, since he would have known people like myself that lived in Eichlers. Steve was frequently in my home, for example. The reporter or author probably thought Steve was talking about his own house.”

Isaacson described walking the neighborhood with Jobs and viewing Jobs’ boyhood home from the outside. Isaacson declined to be interviewed for this report.

The Monta Loma neighborhood does indeed have a development of Eichler homes, Fairview, from the mid-1950s just three blocks from Diablo Avenue, as well as other small subdivisions of quasi-modern homes. Fairview’s approximately 200 Eichlers are contiguous and all contained within a single city-designated tract.