Joseph Eichler

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Joseph Eichler
Joseph Eichler, 1958.jpg
Born 1900
Died 1974 (aged 73–74)
Ethnicity Jewish[1]
Citizenship United States
Occupation real estate developer
Spouse(s) Lillian Moncharsh

Joseph Eichler (1900–1974) was a 20th-century post-war U.S. American real estate developer known for developing distinctive residential subdivisions of Mid-Century modern style tract housing in California, United States. He was one of the influential advocates of bringing modern architecture from custom residences and large corporate buildings to general public availability. His company and developments remain in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles.[1]

Eichler Homes[edit]

Between 1949 and 1966, Joseph Eichler's company, Eichler Homes, built over 11,000[2] homes in nine communities in Northern California and homes in three communities in Southern California. Later, other firms worked with Eichler's company to built similar houses. Together, they all came to be known as Eichlers. During this period, Eichler became one of the nation's most influential builders of modern homes. The largest contiguous Eichler Homes development is 'The Highlands' in San Mateo, built between 1956 and 1964.[citation needed]

Foster Residence, Granada Hills

Joseph Eichler is considered by some to be a social visionary and commissioned designs primarily for middle-class Americans. One of his stated aims was to construct inclusive and diverse planned communities, ideally featuring integrated parks and community centers. Eichler established a non-discrimination policy and offered homes for sale to anyone of any religion or race. In 1958, he resigned from the National Association of Home Builders when they refused to support a non-discrimination policy.[citation needed]


According to his son,[3] Eichler was inspired by a short period of time when the family lived in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Hillsborough, Ca.[4] Eichler was attracted to the style and decided to try to produce similar designs. Joseph Eichler used well-known architects to design both the site plans and the homes themselves. He hired the respected architect and Wright disciple of sorts [3] Robert Anshen of Anshen & Allen to design the initial Eichlers, and the first prototypes were built in 1949. In later years, Eichler homes were built by other architects including by the San Francisco firm Claude Oakland & Associates and the Los Angeles firms of Jones & Emmons, A. Quincy Jones, and Raphael Soriano.

Eichler homes are examples of Modernist architecture that has come to be known as "California Modern," and typically feature glass walls, post-and-beam construction, and open floorplans in a style indebted to Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. Eichler home exteriors featured flat and/or low-sloping A-Framed roofs, vertical 2-inch pattern wood siding, and spartan facades with clean geometric lines. One of Eichler's signature concepts was to "bring the outside in," achieved via skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows with glass transoms looking out on protected and private outdoor rooms, patios, atriums, gardens, and swimming pools. Also of note is that most Eichler homes feature few, if any, front-facing (i.e., street-facing) windows; instead house fronts have either small, ceiling-level windows or small, rectangular windows with frosted glass. Many other architectural designs have large windows on all front-facing rooms.

The interiors had numerous unorthodox and innovative features for the time period including: exposed post-and-beam construction; tongue and groove decking for the ceilings following the roofline; concrete slab floors with integral radiant heating; lauan (Philippine mahogany) paneling; sliding doors for rooms, closets, and cabinets; and typically a second bathroom located in the master bedroom. Later models introduced the distinctive Eichler entry atriums, an open-air, enclosed entrance foyer designed to further advance the concept of integrating outdoor and indoor spaces.

Eichler homes were airy and modern in comparison to most of the mass-produced, middle-class, postwar homes built in the 1950s. At first, potential home buyers, many of whom were war-weary ex-servicemen and women seeking convention rather than innovation, were resistant to the innovative homes. Eichler also faced competition from developers who used stylistic elements of Eichler homes in diluted and more conventional designs, later called "Eichleresque." Eichler Homes never achieved large profits for Joseph Eichler.[citation needed]

In his biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs credited his living in an Eichler Home when growing up as one of the main inspiration for developing a simple, modernist aesthetic sensibility. [5] however, Steve Jobs ever living in an Eichler was recently disproven by researchers at the Eichler Network, who discovered and confirmed that Jobs' boyhood home was a similarly-styled mid-century modern by another builder.[6]


The Northern California Eichler Homes are predominantly in San Francisco, Marin County, Sacramento, the East Bay towns of Walnut Creek, Concord, Oakland, Castro Valley, and the San Francisco Peninsula towns of San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and San Jose. The Southern California Eichler Homes developments are in Thousand Oaks, Granada Hills, and Orange.

Eichler Homes neighborhoods[edit]

Other projects[edit]

Joseph Eichler also built semi-custom designs for individual clients by commission, such as three in Chestnut Ridge, New York. As a result of soaring land prices in the mid-1960s urban redevelopment projects became popular, and Eichler began building low- and high-rise projects in San Francisco's Western Addition and Hunters Point-Bayview districts, luxury high-rises and clustered housing on Russian Hill and Diamond Heights. He also developed the suburban and trendsetting co-op communities Pomeroy Green and Pomeroy West in Santa Clara. These large projects began to overextend the company, and by the mid-1960s, Eichler Homes was in financial distress. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1967.

People who grew up in Eichler homes[edit]

Although Steve Jobs said he grew up in an Eichler home and stated "that his appreciation for Eichler homes instilled in him a passion for making nicely designed products for the mass market",[10] he had actually lived in an Eichler competitor's structure in Mountain View, California.[11] Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak grew up in an Eichler home in Sunnyvale, California.[11]


  • The Parr family home in the Pixar animated feature The Incredibles appears to be an Alexander home—another type of tract-home design similar to Eichlers.
  • Eichler houses in Orange, California, were used to project a very stylistic look in the 2006 independent film Another Gay Movie.
  • The neighborhood seen in the 2008 film Speed Racer includes a number of digitally re-created Eichler houses.
  • The 1999 film Foreign Correspondents, by Mark Tapio Kines, was partly shot in the director's father's Eichler home in Mountain View, California.
  • The 2010 film What Better Place, by Chapman University student Hiyam Abousaid, was shot entirely in an Eichler home in Orange, California.
  • The 2014 film 'Small Time' features an Eichler home as the residence of the character Al Klein

Personal life[edit]

He married Lilian Moncharsh, the daughter of Polish Jewish emigres.[12]


  1. ^ a b Jewish Daily Forward: "How 'Eichlers' Brought Design to Suburbia - Jewish Builder Transformed American Ideal of Modern Homes" By Renee Ghert-Zand March 02, 2012
  2. ^ Adamson, Paul (2002). Eichler: Modernism rebuilds the American Dream (first ed.). Gibbs Smith. p. 22. ISBN 1-58685-184-5. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs, Chapter one – "Childhood: Abandoned and Chosen". Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4516-4853-7. 
  6. ^ "Jobs' 'Likeler' No Eichler". Eichler Network. Feb 15, 2012. Retrieved Feb 26, 2012. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Mountain View Online : Steve Jobs called Mountain View home as a child
  9. ^ Joseph Eichler | Progressive builder of Joseph Eichler Homes | Architect
  10. ^ Isaacson, Walter (2011). Steve Jobs. Simon and Schuster. p. 127. 
  11. ^ a b Eichler’s Modernist Homes
  12. ^ Adamson, Paul and Marty Arbunich Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream edited by Marty Arbunich, Ernest Braun | 2002 | p. 44


  • Adamson, Paul; Marty Arbunich, Ernest Braun (photographer) (2002). Eichler: Modernism Rebuilds the American Dream. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith Publishers. ISBN 1-58685-184-5. 
  • Adamson, Paul (March 2001). "California modernism and the Eichler homes". The Journal of Architecture 6 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1080/13602360010024804. 
  • Ditto, Jerry; Lanning Stern, Marvin Wax (photographer) (1995). Design for Living: Eichler Homes. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-0846-7. 
  • Jacobs, Karrie (May 15, 2005). "Saving the Tract House". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved December 26, 2009. 

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