How One Block Became a ‘Dream Street’

Eichler homes on Lyons Street in Redwood City
On Lyons Street it is never hard to get a group of neighbors together because of the friendships they have forged over the years. Photos by Sabrina Huang

It’s something that happens all too often to Eichler neighborhoods, particularly small Eichler neighborhoods. Years and inattention take their toll, the homes lose their character, the sense of neighborliness dissipates. But not on Lyons Street, in Redwood City, as we reveal in ‘Call of the Canopy’ in the new winter ‘20 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

Loss of some character has even happened to some non-Eichler neighborhoods only a few blocks from Lyons Street, where many homes have been altered.

But in 'Fairwood,' as the 29 homes on Lyons Street were originally called when they were built in 1953, almost all look quite original from the exterior. (However, one home has a second-story addition and another was rebuilt, Eichler-like, after a fire.)

A small Eichler home on Lyons Street
The Eichler homes on Lyons Street are compact, livable designs.

These are small homes, mostly 1,380 square feet, Bob Kirchgatter says, with three bedrooms and two baths, and two-car garages or carports.

These homes were built four years before architect Bob Anshen gave Eichler the atrium – and before aluminum doors were available, so these sliders are of steel. Some homes have exterior walls with projecting concrete blocks to create shadows, a relatively unusual feature for Eichler.

What calls out immediately to many visitors to Lyons Street is the remarkable parade of trees that shade the street. Several people who live there today were attracted originally by these trees, including the Bowies.

Trees
A canopy formed by street trees helps define the look of the tract and attracts visitors.

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

But trees don’t build friendships. People do. Over the years Lyons Street has been lucky to have, number one, a few people who go out of their way to get to know their neighbors and to put on parties and other events, and, two, a group of people who are worth getting to know.

Christine Bahr and her husband Dave Walter fall into both categories. Dave is called the mayor of the street, and Christine the 'queen of decoupage' (for the art form she practices).

Eichler Carport
Most of the homes preserve their original look on Lyons Street.

They are known for their fabulous annual Halloween party, as well as for other gatherings that attract neighbors and friends. Dave doesn’t brag about being called mayor. He says it doesn’t take much to get people social if that’s what they want.

“It only takes a spark. It’s a spark, and other people join in,” Dave says. “We’re not special. We’re just a spark.”

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.

And interesting people?

Marian
Marian Vanden Bosch stands by her front door with some of her carvings. Her home is filled with art, mostly by Marian but also by her husband, Tom Vanden Bosch.

Take Marian Vanden Bosch, an artist who has been living here since 1963. She taught sculpture for some 30 years at adult schools and junior colleges. “At one time I had 100 students at a time, four classes of 25 students,” she says.

She’s done flower arranging at Filoli, the Woodside grand mansion that is open to the public, and has created murals and sculptures there.

When her daughter needed a fancy jacket for English-riding competition, rather than buy one Marian decided to make one. Her daughter’s reaction, of course, was what any daughter would say:

“Oh, are you kidding!? Do you think I would wear something  you’d make?”

Well, she did wear it.

“It was terrific,” Marian recalls. “I got all these orders for jackets. I was in business! I had a business making jackets!”

And for years Marian was an attraction on San Francisco’s Pier 39, carving wooden carousel horses and other creatures that were sold from a popular shop there.

“I’ve always done all kinds of funny, different things,” Marian says. “If there is something that needs to be done, I always think I can do it.”

There are sculptors, art photographers, animators, and other creative types among the neighbors, including old-timers and newcomers. Most newcomers are in the tech industry, and are adding much to the texture of the neighborhood, old-timers say.

For more on Lyons Street, read ‘Call of the Canopy,’ a sneak preview of the new winter '20 CA-Modern magazine.

 

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