Maybe Eichler Fans Can Go Home Again

Megan and Keith Blaine are architects -- and preservationists, including of their own Eichler home. They recently welcomed to their home a man who grew up there, and they appreciated learning more about its history. Courtesy of the Blaines

Mark McClellan, who grew up in an Eichler home in San Jose but has been living for more than three decades in San Diego, didn’t knock on the door of his former home earlier this summer because he just really, really wanted to see it.

That wasn’t it, he says.

No. He was knocking because the house sits next door to the house of an old family friend, Mr. Carter, and he wondered how the old man was doing. Mark hadn’t spoken to John Carter in three, maybe four years. Was he still living there? Was he well?

Answering the door at the former McClellan home in the Rose Glen neighborhood, in a tract Eichler originally called ‘Morepark,’ was Megan Blaine, who bought the house with her husband Keith two years ago.

She told him Mr. Carter was doing well. But before visiting his old friend, Mark spent time in his former house because Megan and Keith invited him in.

It proved to be an emotional experience for the Blaines, who love their house and appreciate not just how original it remains, but the history behind it.

Mark McClellan and Louis Dellas, a childhood friend, in the home. Courtesy of Mark McClellan

The Blaines had known, for example, that the family before them had been African-American, part of an ethnically diverse neighborhood. And they appreciated that some of the items in the house, including a modern hanging lamp, had belonged to that family.

 “He told us about growing up in this super-diverse neighborhood in the '60s," Megan says. "With his family’s almost 52-year history in this home, he knew just about every family in the neighborhood. He said the original owner was actually Maynard Ferguson, the jazz musician.

“He told us about where he was when they watched JFK’s funeral on their black-and-white TV in our living room, and how the city went completely silent. He told us about the building of the 280 freeway just 2 blocks away, and about how they let the neighborhood kids ride their bike on the freeway before it opened.”

It was also emotional for Mark, who lived in the home from 1963 to 1981. His mother remained there until 2010, and it remained in the family a few more years. He was back in the Bay Area to scatter his father’s ashes in the sea near Santa Cruz.

 “It was neat for me to grow up in an Eichler,” Mark says. He was rightly impressed at how much his old home remains unchanged.

“They have the original kitchen counter. We ate breakfast there,” he says. Little dings and scuffs remain, and they resonate.

The McClellan family furnished the home with several cool hanging lamps, which the Blaines admire and have retained. This is over the dining table. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Mark describes a shelf above the kitchen counter, which has an overhang. At some family party, probably Christmas or Thanksgiving, he recalls “my uncle popped a cork from a Champagne bottle. It shot directly into the wood of that shelf, and to this day the indentation was still there. My mother was yelling, ‘God damn, you’re ruining my house.’

“I scratched my name into the paneling in my bedroom,” he says, noting that Megan found it while sitting there with her infant son Henry.

Mark remembers another family celebration when his uncle Bobby Mays, a geologist with the US Geological Survey, was excited about having just examined moon rocks retrieved by the astronauts of the Apollo 15 mission.

Just going back to the neighborhood proved compelling.

“One interesting thing is the tree,” he says. “There’s a tall fir tree across the street from the Blaines’ house. You can see that when you land at San Jose’s airport.”

From the plane he said to himself, “Damn, I can see my street.”

Lamp 2
Another mid-century lamp whose existence in the house has spanned generations. Photo by Dave Weinstein

The neighborhood of Morepark, three long streets of Eichlers, hasn’t changed much, he says, “It looks identical, which is so fascinating. People have maintained their Eichlers. They haven’t torn them down. When I turned the corner, it looked like it did when I was a kid.”

“It was neat growing up there. There were a lot of kids on the street all of about the same age. We played outside a lot and one of our favorite games was Kick the Can. It was so neat when somebody turned up the street [in their car], we knew who it was and whether we had to get out of the street. We knew what driveway they were going to turn into,” he recalls.

Living on Richmond Street, he says, were a doctor, a psychologist, two professors, “a neat collection of people.” The most famous, who’d lived there a few years earlier, he learned as a boy, was the trumpeter and big-band leader Maynard Ferguson.

The McClellan-Blaine home has retained its looks since it was new. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Mark remembers being the only black child at Sherman Oaks Elementary when he started, and he remembers how, walking to school with his mother, a child of about five approached and used a racial epithet. Mark’s mom sent the boy packing.

Otherwise there were no racial problems, and Richmond soon had four black families – including the Carters. Then there were the Beedles, important because their home was the only one with air-conditioning – and it had a pool. “That was the swimming pool I learned to swim in,” he says.

“When the Beedles arrived, it was really a neat thing that happened to that street. Everybody went to the Beedle house. It became the party house.”

Does he miss living in the home? “Yeah, I do. I tell the boys, when I hit the lottery, I’m going to buy my house.”

But he’ll have to contend with the Blaines, who may not want to move.

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