Fresh Eichlers in Orange Will Open for Touring

Green house
The Eichlers of Fairhaven are a varied and beautiful lot. We are showing typical houses, not tour houses, whose locations have yet to be released. Photos by Dave Weinstein

One of only a handful of Eichler neighborhoods in Southern California will open some of its homes for a rare public tour on June 27. If that’s appealing, bear in mind – tickets are going fast.

Fairhaven, one of three Eichler tracts in the attractive Orange County city of Orange, is a beautifully preserved enclave, and very friendly to boot. The other two tracts, Fairhills and Fairmeadow, are also attractive and well preserved.

In Southern California Eichler also built homes in Balboa Highlands in the San Fernando Valley and in Thousand Oaks.

In Fairhaven, neighborhood tours open only to neighbors occur at times. And progressive dinners, where neighbors enjoy each other's company, and look over each other's houses, occur quarterly, says Tracy Ettinger, who lives in the neighborhood.

Flat roof
Another Eichler, long and low with a masonry wall.

“They pick three houses, the appetizer house, the main course house, the dessert house,” she says.

But there hasn’t been a public tour in, well, at least six years, maybe a little longer. “It’s been a while,” Jeffrey Crussell remembers thinking. “ We should do it again.” Crussell, one of the organizers of the upcoming tour, lives in a different Eichler neighborhood in Orange, Fairhills.

The 2015 Eichler Home Tour is being presented by the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It will focus, says Ettinger, who is also helping to organize things, on homes that have been remodeled in a way that stays true to the Eichler design.

“A lot new homeowners have come in, in the past several years, and they have been putting some decent money into them. They have a nice, fresh approach,” she says.

Four to five homes will be on the tour which, unlike most such home tours, will not occur during the afternoon but between 5 and 8:30 p.m. That’s because it gets hot in Orange during the afternoon, Crussell says. All the homes are within easy walking distance.

Another house
Plantings add to the appeal of the many of the neighborhood's homes.

In another departure from most home tours, the AiA tour is not releasing photos or location information about the homes in advance of the tour.

Crussell, who sells real estate, says interest in the Eichlers of Orange is high among locals.

“Half the people who come to open houses don’t care about buying anything,” he says. “They want to see the house. I’ll be outside in front of my house working on the garden, you can see people trolling. Sometimes they’ll come up and ask if they can see the house. They’ve never been in an Eichler before.”

“Owners whose houses were recently renovated and/or known not to have been modified in ways that compromise the original design intent, were approached and asked if they would be interested in sharing their homes with us,” says Mark Paone, an Orange architect and a member of the AiA. “From that list of willing participants, we figured out a route for people to walk, keeping the distances reasonable, and narrowing down the number of houses. We have ended up with about a one-mile route, with four or five  homes on the route.”

Fairhaven, which has about 140 homes, was built in the early 1960s, part of Eicher’s endeavor to expand geographically – and in other ways, including by building urban neighborhoods and high rises.

Another interesting set of plantings.

Joe’s son and business associate, Ned Eichler, argued strongly against such expansion, fearing it would dilute the firm’s core business of building suburban tracts in the Bay Area.

“We were already struggling trying to control operations in Walnut Creek, not to mention Sacramento,” Ned Eichler said, in an interview several years back. “Why would we succeed 400 miles away?”

Ned attributed the 1967  bankruptcy of Eichler Homes in part to the Southern California venture.

Still, of all the locations Joe Eichler chose in Southern California, Ned judged the city of the Orange to be the best. “Of the places, that was the best place to do it,” he said. “It was more like the Peninsula [where Eichler got his start and built many homes], it was quickly growing, there was high tech, a new university was going in.”

Moves are underway to place all three of the Eichler neighborhoods in Orange on the National Register, a campaign spearheaded by local real estate agent Kelly Laule.

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