See Eichler’s Own Homes in the Fall Issue

San Mateo
This well-built house in San Mateo near Hillsborough housed the Eichler family just before Joe discovered Frank Lloyd Wright. Though traditional, it has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to the out of doors. Photos by Dave Weinstein

Few people are as closely associated with the idea of 'home' as Joe Eichler, whose Eichler Homes built 11,000 modern homes that remain beloved, commodious, and even collectable to this day. That’s why it’s telling to discover the variety of houses that Joe himself called home in ‘At Home with the Eichlers’ in the new fall '18 issue of CA-Modern magazine.

Putting together the list of homes where Joe and wife Lillian lived, along with their sons Dick and Ned when the boys were of an age, proved no easy task. It involved delving through old city directories and census and genealogical records.

Making it harder was simply the number of homes where the Eichlers chose to dwell – at least 14 in California alone. Also, some addresses associated with Eichler turned out to be places where he did business.

The range of homes showed both that Joe enjoyed a variety of architectural styles and building types, and that he enjoyed living in both suburbs and cities. By examining the homes where the Eichlers chose to live we also learn something else interesting:

For a brief time the Eichlers lived on Leroy Place at number 7, a narrow alley near the top of San Francisco's tony Nob Hill. The small apartment house may not look like much, but the apartments are large.

Even when he chose to live in a Monterey Revival or other more traditional homes, Joe often selected homes that were open to the outdoors, with glass doors, not just glass windows.

It’s worth remembering the one very special house that set Joe off on his homebuilding career. Followers of the Eichler legend of course know this was the Bazett house, a Frank Lloyd Wright creation that Joe rented for his family and where they lived for two years, 1944 and 1945.

The house is central to the origins of Eichler Homes, as it is where Joe fell in love with modern architecture. Two years after departing the home – he was forced out by the owners, who wanted to return to living there themselves – Joe began his career building homes.

The Bazett house, as the Wright home at 101 Reservoir Road in Hillsborough was called, may be the most famous house Eichler inhabited, and arguably the most interesting. But a survey of the other homes Joe lived in reveals several things about the man, his family, his lifestyle, and his tastes.

Our story starts in California, where Joe moved in 1924 to work for the poultry and dairy firm owned by his wife’s father.

But in researching Joe’s abodes, we also learned about places he lived in his birthplace, New York City, where Joe was born in 1900.

Among several custom Eichlers where Joe and wife Lillian lived was this one at 20 Buckthorn Avenue in Hillsborough.

The Eichler family lived in the prosperous enclave of Sutton Place in midtown Manhattan, East 57th Street according to the 1920 city directory, East 58th according to the 1925 edition. The housing stock at the time included four- and five-story brownstone row houses.

In a 2012 interview, the late Ned Eichler recounted that his dad “used to play kickball under the 59th Street Bridge.”

Joe’s dad, David, ran a toy store nearby and did well enough to keep a live-in servant, according to the 1920 census.

In a 2012 interview, the late Ned Eichler told about how Joe’s mother violated a law that made it illegal to sell fireworks. “But she did,” Ned said. “She kept them hidden in her apron behind the counter.”

“Joe told this story with a lot of joy,” Ned added.

At age 24 Joe, who had studied business at NYU then worked in finance and in a few other jobs, married 19-year-old Lillian Moncharsh and was soon working for the financial firm owned by her father, Abraham Moncharsh.

Joe and his wife even lived in one of his regular tract homes for a time, this one in Los Altos at 1684 Clay. Joe may have lived in other homes in his tracts for brief periods.

When a San Francisco dairy and poultry firm Moncharsh was financing ran into trouble, Ned said in an interview, Moncharsh moved west to take over, bringing along Joe and Lillian. Joe’s brother Al and his father also relocated.

Joe and Lillian lived first in a succession of apartments in San Francisco. They lived in the Marina and Cow Hollow neighborhoods while he worked for the firm near what is today the Embarcadero. Back then it was the city’s produce market.

It’s interesting to learn, through census records, that the Eichler household often employed live-in servants. In their San Francisco apartment in 1945, they employed  live-in servant Ada Weber.

While living in a lovely, Spanish-tinged home in San Mateo during the 1930s and early ‘40s, for example, the Eichlers employed a live-in couple, Richard and Lillian Kuest, he 23, she a mere 9.

You can also find odd, inexplicable things in census data. The 1940 census, for example, listed Joe’s occupation as “fireman.”


Read more about Joe Eichler’s man homes – some of them were actually Eichlers! – in 'At Home with the Eichlers,' our sneak preview of the new fall ’18 issue of CA-Modern.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Bazett house, where the Eichlers lived during World War II, spurred Joe on to build modern homes.

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