Eichlers of Shangri-La

Marin's Strawberry Point—where cherished friendships rival spectacular waterfront views
Eichlers of Shangri-La
One of the three Eichlers found on Great Circle Drive is this flat-roof design with a lovely view.

It would have been the most luxurious suburban Eichler neighborhood of them all—99 houses filling a spit of land surrounded by the Bay, every home with a beautiful sightline, each one adding to the view.

Harbor Point, as Joe Eichler called the development he had planned for Strawberry Point in Marin County, promised a "community of premium homes, flanking public marina and docking facilities," with "hill lots extending to one-half acre in area."

"This was really his dream," says Susan Kolb, whose late husband, Felix, bought into the dream in 1966 by buying one of the 13 model homes, which were built a year earlier. Susan married Felix shortly thereafter.

Those 13 models, each different and each alongside Richardson Bay, proved to be the only ones Eichler built on Strawberry, as Eichler Homes plunged into bankruptcy in the mid-'60s, done in by financial problems tied to urban projects like the Eichler Summit, the luxury residential high-rise atop San Francisco's Russian Hill.

Eichlers of Shangri-La
Living room of Betty Toole.

Next time you're in Southern Marin, swing by Starboard Court, in unincorporated Mill Valley, where ten of those models are home to neighbors who are also close friends. Three others are on adjacent Great Circle Drive.

Then stand on the court, survey the hills above and the shoreline below, and imagine the former chaparral-covered wildland. Today, those hills are dotted with homes of varied ilk, built several years after the Eichlers.

Now close your eyes and imagine further: what if all those homes were Eichlers? What if the now-existing harbor on the other side of the peninsula was also surrounded by Eichler homes? What a mid-century modern paradise it would be.

But it's not a story of regret you'll be hearing from people in the Eichlers of Strawberry today. Indeed, one neighbor describes the place as so charmed its residents seem as resistant to time's passage as the citizens of the legendary city of Shangri-La.

At home with Betty Toole, who says of her neighbors, "I mean, everyone is so amazing. Accomplished, intelligent, good, caring."

"It is a Shangri-La," says Avril Couris, agreeing with her neighbor's suggestion. The reference is to a magical place in the 1930s fantasy novel Lost Horizon.

Starboard Court has four original owners, and one widower of an original owner. There are other longtime owners among the 13 Eichlers, including Couris, who bought in 1975.

Most friendships and social activities involve the folks on Starboard, although some court residents are friends with owners of the three Eichlers on Great Circle Drive.

"Susan's fantastic, Ave [Avril] is fantastic. Philip at [age] 99 is wonderful," original owner Betty Toole says of her neighbors. "I mean, everyone is so amazing. Accomplished, intelligent, good, caring."

Eichlers of Shangri-La
Betty's original Eichler two-story.

Owners have included many doctors, a well-known lawyer, entrepreneurs, merchants of Danish modern furniture, and artists—including a niece of Joe Eichler.

Outsiders have noticed that Starboard Court is special, including the real estate broker who suggested that Stephanie and Sam Parker buy there.

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