The Hidden Eichlers of Sleepy Hollow

Wadia family at home
Phiroze (left) and Goolcher Wadia, original owners in the Eichler Sleepy Hollow tract, love the neighborhood's friendliness and rural flavor. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Goolcher Wadia didn’t receive the warmest welcome when she and her husband, Phiroze, bought their home in the tiny Eichler tract in Sleepy Hollow, in Marin County, north of San Anselmo.

Sure, a welcome wagon of sorts appeared at the Wadia’s door, a woman handing out a directory to others in the larger neighborhood, which had been made up to that point of traditionally styled homes. The overall neighborhood of Sleepy Hollow began to develop in he late 1940s.

The small grouping of about 15 Eichlers, which were built along both sides of a creek in 1972 and ‘73, were something new, and some longtime residents were wary.

“After she got up to leave, she said, ‘You know, I’m really, really happy to meet you, because we were really worried about the kind of person that was going to move into these houses,’” Goolcher recalls.

“Because at that time, Sleepy Hollow had only ranch homes,” Wadia says.”Eichlers were these awful-looking things, according to the neighbor.”

“It was just so funny. She didn’t realize how insulting that sounded.”

Goolcher and Phiroze
Goolcher and Phiroze say the neighborhood has not changed much throughout their decades there, and enjoy meeting newcomers.

Today, the Eichlers of this unincorporated Marin neighborhood make up one of the more unique Eichler collections anywhere.

The homes are tucked into a valley that formerly housed a dairy, and occupy the site of a former horse stable, with a free flowing creek running past most backyards, and forested hillsides all around. Few Eichlers anywhere are as intimately surrounded by nature.

The Eichlers are on Catskill Court and Katrina Lane, two streets that loop off from Butterfield Road. Butterfield may be the main street in Sleepy Hollow, but it is far from a thoroughfare, proceeding for three miles from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard before dead-ending against a hillside.

There are three other Eichler homes in Sleepy Hollow, but they are custom homes on nearby hills, not part of the subdivision. The first was built in 1956.

The homes in Sleepy Hollow are late-model Eichlers, large and stylish. This one on Catskill Court likes to show off.

Fortunately Goolcher’s guarded welcome from the wider neighborhood did not foretell the friendly place Sleepy Hollow has turned out to be.

“Sleepy Hollow is an incredible neighborhood,” Goolcher says. “I can throw a stone in any direction and hit one of my best friends. It’s the community coming together to take care of people. If you’re in trouble, they’re right there, they’re right there to help you. It’s amazing.”

Her husband, Phiroze, an engineer who has designed office buildings for SOM, recalls the time, years back, when a filled-in well in their backyard collapsed.  “And believe it or not, every single neighbor on this block showed up with a wheelbarrow and helped us fill that hole,” he says.

“I don’t know how much you know about Sleepy Hollow, but it’s actually a unique community,” he says. “Seven hundred families. Everybody knows everybody else. We have a clubhouse where we meet, and this was one of the first clubhouses built in Marin County.”

BKatrina house
A number of homes on Katrina Lane, like the one above, have been altered, but not all of them. Street names in Sleepy Hollow come from Washington Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.' Katrina is from character Katrina Van Tassel. The Catskill Mountains in New York are near the story's setting.

Goolcher and Phiroze bought their home in 1974 from the first owner, who stayed less than a year. They raised two boys and a girl there. Another early buyer was Cindy Morris, one of Joe Eichler’s nieces.

“We had like ten or 11 kids on the block within four years of each other,” Goolcher says. “So it was a fabulous neighborhood to move into.”

Over the years the clubhouse area – which includes a park, tennis, and pool and is adjacent to the Eichlers – has been crucial to neighborhood togetherness.

The Sleepy Hollow Homes Association, which owns the clubhouse, also fought to preserve the hillsides around the community, fighting plans decades ago to develop a highway over a ridge. The Terra Linda Sleepy Hollow Open Space, a ridge that divides Sleepy Hollow from the Eichler-filled tracts of Terra Linda, is the result.

Fawn Drive
Before building his small Sleepy Hollow tract, Eichler built three custom homes in Sleepy Hollow, including this one on a hilly site on Fawn Drive. Doing so may have given him the idea for the tract.

Soo-Ah Landa, a neighbor on Catskill who has lived there with husband, David, and three boys for the past eight years, remembers when her son and his buddies would ride their electric bikes up and over the hill to get to school in Terra Linda.

“It was the Sleepy Hollow bike brigade,” she says. “They had matching sweatshirts one year that we gave them. It was adorable.”

The creek may be an amenity, but it seems to have helped divide the Eichler tract into two. Most socializing these days on Catskill does not involve people from Katrina, though Soo-Ah says a few years ago it did.

The two streets even look different, with every house on Catskill looking pretty original from the street. Many on Katrina have had unusual remodels, though Goolcher says the most intact of all the Eichlers is on Katrina. It just sold.

“You know, it used to be everybody knew everybody," Goolcher says. "And then as people left and things changed, you know, other than one family, I can’t say that I know anybody [on Katrina] well.

This is the first of several visits this blog will be making to the captivating Eichlers of Sleepy Hollow.

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