Eichler Homes History
Eichler homes made history. The innovative designs were ahead of their time-not simply because of elements like “front-to-back living,” atriums, or including two bathrooms in a three-bedroom house, but because these elements were included in tract houses.
Aside from the architecture of their product, Eichler Homes, Inc. also set other landmarks. These had to do with community. The community center was another innovation in a number of Eichler developments-often including a clubhouse and pool. None of the Orange tracts has a community center (though a Fairhills resident did correspond with Eichler himself about the possibility of building one, but that hasn’t stopped Eichler-owners from gelling into a true community.
Right from the start, Karnes recalls, her neighbors gathered together almost as a big family. In her scrapbook she has a copy of the first invitation sent out to other neighbors in the Fairhills tract, for a neighborhood art show. “We can think of no better way of getting to understand one another than through art and this sharing of self,” the note reads.
Neighborhood art shows aren’t the norm anymore, but Eichler-owners still host progressive dinners in which guests travel from one house to another, enjoying a different course at each one. Residents of the Fairhaven tract have a standing Thursday-night date at a nearby Thai restaurant. (Residents of other Eichler tracts are welcome, but don’t attend as regularly.)
Eichler Homes also broke into new territory by expanding the definition of “community.” Original home-owners still have their deeds containing a non-discrimination clause, the reverse of the then-standard restricted covenant. Eichler neighborhoods were purposefully integrated early on.
Dr. Harvey Grody, an original Eichler owner in the Fairhaven tract, remembers that a realtor’s reluctance to show his wife an Eichler home-perhaps because of the non-discrimination clause-was an added incentive for his family to buy one. When they moved in to their Eichler in 1961, their neighbors included African- and Asian-Americans. (For more about Eichler Homes’ stance on neighborhood integration, go to www.eichlersocal.com/RaceHousing.html.)
“There were some … racist-type activities” at first, Grody recalls. “People came through knocking over garbage cans.” And, he recalls, one neighbor complained that a black family lived next door.
Those problems were minimal and short-lived. Today’s Eichler-owners emphasize the open-mindedness of their neighbors, and their eagerness to embrace newbies.
“The first two weeks we were living here we couldn’t get anything done because people were always dropping by,” recalls Carla Jacobs. “It got to the point where we just stood in front of the door and waited for the next people to come by.”