Call of the Canopy

Their magnificent trees attract attention—but it’s the friendships that make Lyons Street so special
Call of the Canopy
A view down Lyons Street's row of Eichlers: "It was our dream street!" recalls current resident Mary Bowie of her days of house hunting.
Call of the Canopy
When the Eichler Network visited Redwood City's Lyons Street recently, its curious Eichler neighbors came out to gather under the camphor trees.
Call of the Canopy
One of the young families in the neighborhood—Keisha and Jeff Thoene, with their infant son and Guy the golden retriever
Call of the Canopy
At home with Mariko Hoshi and Joe Nobles.
Call of the Canopy
Call of the Canopy
Two views of the Hoshi-Nobles lovely Eichler are pictured here, including a shot of their backyard birdbaths (above), which keep the couple "totally mesmerized," says Joe.

On one tree-covered block in Redwood City stand 28 Eichler homes in two straight lines. It's not a spectacular block, though several of the street trees, green year round with limbs that reach for the sky and arch over the road, certainly are spectacular.

"People love them," neighbor Christine Bahr says of the camphor trees. "People come down this street just to come down this street."

Not spectacular either are the houses, small and simple, built early in Joe Eichler's career, without the steep, dramatic gables seen in so many of his later homes.

Still, it's a street that once seen is hard to forget.

Mary and Roger Bowie certainly couldn't, when they first discovered Lyons Street on a recreational bike ride more than 20 years ago. Nor could James Kim, when he similarly came upon the place while walking for exercise 16 years later.

Mary, an artist, and Roger, a banker, weren't bowled over simply because these were Eichlers. They were already living in an Eichler townhouse in Palo Alto. What got them was the quiet harmony of the street.

"We went, 'Oh, my gosh, could you imagine if we ever got to buy a house on this street!'" Mary recalls. "It was our dream street!"

When a house in the neighborhood, which was originally called 'Fairwood' but is known today simply as 'Lyons Street,' came up for sale, the Bowies bid—as did at least 15 others, she says. But the Bowies won. "We ended up getting it on our dream street!"

"It was wow, Kismet, the way it worked out," Roger says.

James Kim, a project manager for a tech firm, who was living in a Redwood City rental 30 minutes away, often took long walks on random routes.

"I was walking to [Red] Morton Park, listening to music," he says. "I turned the corner and wound up on Lyons Street. I went home and said to my wife, you have to see this block."

"We're both fans of mid-century modern. It was exciting to find Eichlers here. We didn't know about these," he says.

His wife, Lea Ann Hutter, says, "We're big neighborhood walkers. This became a favorite block of ours."

So, like the Bowies, James and Lea Ann pounced when a home there hit the market. Still, they understood it takes more than pretty trees to make a block a home. What would it be like to live on Lyons Street, they wondered.

 The day they visited the house, they met an original owner, Peggy Smullin, who'd moved to the neighborhood with her parents in 1953.

"She was very kind," James says. "She offered to show us her house, and she called her friend Christine [Bahr], so she could show me both the homes."

"'Wow, what a friendly bunch,'" James and Lea Ann thought. "They invited us to the [neighborhood] Halloween party. We hadn't even bought the home yet," James says.

The camphor trees that line Lyons Street—which, in its entirety, is a single block—may define it today, but they did not create the aspect of this row of homes that most makes it special: It's a street of friends.

"How lucky we are on our street, that we have a social street," Mary says.

Neighbor Julie Paiva says, "We really do have a community here on the street. We have something in common. We all love our houses. We like our street."

"People look out for each other," adds her husband, Troy, a photographer who grew up in an Eichler in Burlingame.