Eichler Owners Connect Cross Country

The three New York Eichlers fill large lots in a forested, rural setting. This is the Tim Santos and Larry Callahan house. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Two years ago when CA-Modern profiled the Eichlers of New York, most people were surprised they even existed – including one Eichler owner who’d grown up only 15 minutes from New York’s three Eichlers. She decided to visit, and did.

“I hope that you do not mind us reaching out to you,” Debbie Frank of Walnut Creek e-mailed New York Eichler owner Martina Brix, requesting an opportunity to visit.

“It was great!” Debbie says of the visit, with a laugh. “That’s not very descriptive, is it?”

“We all had a blast!” says Carl Bayer, Martina's husband.

“It was amazing,” Martina says. “To actually hear and see the enthusiasm, the same shared enthusiasm about the Eichlers!”

In October, Debbie and her husband Ed Hanley, who have lived in an Eichler in Walnut Creek’s Rancho San Miguel for 22 years, visited two of the three families who live in the only three Eichlers ever built outside of California, in Rockland County in upstate New York.

Martina Brix, standing, discusses modern living with Debbie Frank and Ed Hanley. Photo by Carl Bayer

At the home of Martina and Carl and their son Vitus, they enjoyed tea and apple cake and ice cream.  “And Carl opened up some champagne,” Debbie says.

They toured the home, heard about how Hurricane Sandy toppled a tree onto Brix and Bayer’s roof two years ago, and talked about what Eichler owners often talk about.

“We talked about remodeling Eichler houses and some of the challenges,” Debbie says. “We do feel badly for them. It’s so much harder to get Eichler siding there. They have to pay a lot for shipping. We wished there were things we could have brought to them.”

But the New York Eichlers do have more land than those in California, they observed – and cost a lot less.

At the home of neighbors Larry Callahan and Tim Santos, and their daughter Lola, Debbie and Ed learned about their recent remodel.

Ed Hanley, Tim Santos, Larry Callahan and Debbie Frank get to know each other. Photo by Carl Bayer

“Tim and Larry have the same original kitchen cabinets we have, the same original Eichler kitchen table, the same mahogany wall,” Debbie says.

“It was great to have Debbie and her husband over to share our New York Eichler stories, as well as getting a first-hand update about what goes on on the West Coast,” Carl says.

Martina and Carl have never been to any Eichlers in California, though they hope to visit in the future. Debbie and Ed have promised to arrange visits to other homes in Rancho San Miguel.

The visit was relatively brief because Debbie and Ed had family obligations. They did not get to visit the third family who live in one of the New York Eichlers, all of which are much loved and intact. (Repairs were made to the Brix-Bayer home following the storm.)

“They are literally 15 minutes from my parents’ house,” Debbie says. That’s the house – a “splanch,” she calls it, for a split-level ranch – she grew up in. That’s why she was so surprised to first learn about the Eichlers in the pages of CA-Modern.

The living room of the Callahan and Santos house. Photo by Debbie Frank

“My dad would come and visit us in Walnut Creek. He would look around [our] house, sit on the sofa and he would say, ‘You could never build this house around us [in New York]. ’”

When Debbie told friends in Walnut Creek Eichlers about the ones in New York, she encountered doubts. “Even those people insisted they couldn’t be Eichlers like our Eichlers because you could never do that in New York.”

“I told people they are the same houses. They really did not believe it,” she says, adding, “It was so great to see the houses. It was like being at home. It feels like our house.”

Debbie and Ed expected to see Eichlers on their trip to New York. But they did encounter something unexpected.

“Debbie, Ed, and I and Carlheinz have a lot in common,” Martina says, using the full first name of her husband. Both have a single child, she noted.

“It was not our intention to make friends. We were not expecting that,” Debbie says. “I think we have made some friends.”

The press took notice in 1962 when Eichler invaded Upstate New York.

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