Joe Eichler Profile - Page 3

Eichler's iron will, steadfast vision, and unwavering integrity were vital to his success as merchant builder

In 1961, Eichler Homes went public, and that changed things for Joe Eichler. He disliked being beholden to the stockholders. Having to put sales goals ahead of his intuitive desire to continually tinker with the designs frustrated Eichler's creative ambitions, and contributed to a brooding dissatisfaction. He hated having any control wrested from him, and resisted the advice of financial experts, including his son, Ned, who pleaded with him to take less risks. Eventually, Eichler's continual quest to pursue progressive ideas may have overwhelmed the company's ability to remain profitable. In 1967, Eichler sold the company for considerably less than it had been worth only a year or two earlier.

Joe Eichler continued to build housing until his death in 1974, although with a series of reincarnations of his original company. However, none of these subsequent efforts matched the earlier projects in their enthusiasm for new design ideas, or in their social aspirations. However, Eichler's work during the period from 1950 until 1967 left a legacy of design integrity, and unprecedented challenges to the political status quo of developer housing, which remain unparalleled in the history of American building.

Joe Eichler was successful at building uniquely modern house designs and unusually progressive residential communities despite tremendous odds. His success was due to his iron will and his courage to hold steadfast to a vision for suburban communities founded on social and artistic ideals singularly suited to their time and place. Eichler was a lifelong political liberal, and he was guided in his actions by an enduring belief in the American potential for continuing social betterment.

His contribution to the merchant builder community was unique—rare enough in appearance, the entire conceptual basis for Eichler Homes was almost unbelievably idealistic for the notoriously competitive home building industry. As one of his founding partners, Jim San Jule, has said of Eichler's developments, "Everything about them was different." The homes and communities Eichler built—modern in both concept and expression, and socially sensitive in their planning—bore the stamp of Eichler's unwavering ideological integrity and swaggering self-confidence.