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History of Eichler Townhouses in Greenmeadow - Palo Alto

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Joined: Jun 5 2003

I was interested to "discover" a set of Eichler townhouses in Palo Alto, in the Greenmeadow development, off Alma St. This is an intriguing sidelight to what is of course one of the more emblematic Eichler developments.

A resident I spoke with said the units were built in 1954. Sadly, I don't find anything of their history in the new Eichler book. I would be interested to know a bit about their genesis and design. Were they perhaps built in response to a particular call for denser housing at the time? Or, did Eichler simply have an otherwise-difficult strip of land near the railroad tracks? Did they have a champion within the Eichler organization, or were they orphaned swiftly? What was the commercial response to these units? Eichler hardly seems to have used approach again (with the exception of some late townhouses in San Francisco.)

I am interested in any experiences of present and former residents of these townhouses, which have all the motifs of Eichlerdom on a smaller scale (one and two bedroom.)

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts, whims, musings, or even outright information.....


Joined: Mar 20 2003

The townhomes built by Eichler off Greenmeadow Way were not built at the same time as the Greenmeadow single family tract adjacent -- that tract was what was built starting in 1954, but the townhomes seem to have been built a little later. One was recently on the market and was stated as being 43 years old. It certainly had features such as the large front doorknob escutcheon from the later 1950s to early 1960s.

Eichler was becoming more interested in denser housing at this time (around 1960), according to the various interviews with his son and the text in the new book. It's hard to say what caused these particular townhomes (and the similar ones at Ferne and Alma) to be built, but the zoning seems to have dictated denser housing as a buffer to Alma and the SP railroad tracks, now used primarily by Caltrain. It's not clear whether the City of Palo Alto originated this zoning or it was negotiated by Eichler after he bought the land, or if he owned this land from the time the Greenmeadow single family homes were built. The original Greenmeado site plans that have been published never show this land as part of the development. What is clear is that the non-Eichler townhomes south of Greenmeadow way were built much later, in the early 70s. so perhaps Eichler had kept this plot and later sold it.


Joined: Jun 5 2003

Tom, You are a font of information, as ever. It's a pleasure to read your postings and I thank you for taking the time to respond.

On the subject of Eichler townhomes, I was intrigued to find with a better-focused search (after I had posted) a fine thread that opened on April 30 with a post from markrobi, headed "Location of Eichler Townhomes/Condos" that produced an amusing "i went to school with you interplay" as well as a wonderful list from you (Tom Eich) with a list of known townhome/condo projects.

This is wandering from my continued interest in the human and commercial experiences related to these places, but I think Tom's note that "Eichler was becoming more interested in denser housing at this time (around 1960), according to the various interviews with his son and the text in the new book." suggests a plausible and interesting arc of a businessman struggling to find new ground (markets). Early efforts reflected the original Eichler aestetic. Later projects--multi-level and even brick fronting in the case of Visitacion Valley (San Francisco) suggest a groping rather than the earlier innovation.

...And that's what adds to my interest in the Greenmeadow sites--they sit as small jewels of a style usually exercised in larger, single-family structures.


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