This past Saturday we spent the day in San Rafael in Marin County for the Eye-on-Eichlers Home Tour to benefit the Hospice of Marin. Twenty Eichler homes were open to ticket-holders between 11am and 4pm; we got to about two-thirds of them. For those who aren’t familiar with Eichlers, they’re “architect-designed mid-century modern homes built by merchant builder Joe Eichler between 1949 and 1974”. There are about 11,000 Eichlers in California (with the exception of three in New York, all the homes built by Eichler’s company were in California); of these, about 10,000 are in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I’ve long been a fan of Eichler homes, and it was a real treat to get to tour so many of them on Saturday. Eichlers have a very distinctive style exemplary of the “California modern” aesthetic. They tend to be large single-level ranch homes with open floor plans, often with a central atrium or courtyard for indoor-outdoor living, radiant-heat flooring, and walls of glass and clerestory windows are common. The Eichlers in San Rafael also tend to have huge outdoor spaces, and many have pools. Eichler himself was also famed for his insistence on fair housing practices, at a time when other modern home builders practiced discrimination–one of the more famous of the altter was Henry Doelger, the merchant builder of the Westlake District of Daly City, in one of whose houses we now live. Doelger actually wrote covenants restricting non-whites from owning or even living in his houses unless they were live-in servants. From the Eichler Network site:
A strong proponent of fair housing and deeply opposed to racial discrimination, the liberal Eichler was the first large, tract builder to sell to minorities, and even built a home on his own lot for an NAACP leader. Joe resigned from the National Association of Home Builders in 1958 in protest of racial discrimination policies and, according to reports from long-time Eichler owners, offered to buy back homes from those who had trouble accepting their neighbors.
“If, as you claim, this will destroy property values,” Joe once told some disgruntled Eichler owners, “I could lose millions…You should be ashamed of yourselves for wasting your time and mine with such pettiness.”
I really want to own an Eichler some day, and I could definitely see us living in San Rafael; the commute wouldn’t even be much longer than my current drive to work, and the weather tends to be a little sunnier and warmer in the North Bay.
Photography generally wasn’t permitted on Saturday’s home tour, but I so loved some of the furnishings in one house that I asked the owner if he minded if I took some pictures, and he gave his permission; some of those photos are scattered throughout this entry.