Balboa Highlands and Joseph Eichler
Joseph L. Eichler was born in 1900. He was the son of an Austrian-Jewish immigrant who owned a toy store in New York. Joe received a business degree from New York University in 1920. Five years later he married the daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants and by 1930 they had 2 children. The Eichlers moved to San Francisco after their marriage so Joe could work as the chief financial officer of his wife’s family wholesale butter & egg business where he worked for the next twenty years. He wasn’t necessarily happy in this position, but it provided a good living for a family man during the Great Depression.
No Technical Training!
When Eichler finally branched off into running his own business he soon became responsible for every aspect of Eichler Homes. Though he had no technical training or construction experience, he became a master builder. Where other builders cut corners, simplified designs and avoided architects, Eichler hired advocates of the same Modern principles he believed in. His goal was to build complex and sophisticated homes in the most efficient manner. And he succeeded. His homes were so efficiently built – he could afford to use more expensive materials and skilled workmen and yet still come in with a moderately priced home.
“Other builders produce well-built houses and sell at a fair profit. The purchaser will get a good value. We believe our houses go beyond this because much more thought and care go into them. Nothing is spent for frills or gimmicks. Beauty is achieved by the architects’ skill in designing details, his blend of materials and proper proportions, and above all the exercise of good taste. In short, we produce a work of art that has gained international reputation.”
Eichler – a Unique Character
Eichler was a unique character. His role model was Fred Astaire and he was known to have a flair for fashion and look quite dashing in his gray slacks and navy sport coat. His charm went beyond visual looks however, and he was also known to be honest and forthright, have a good sense of humor and a moral side to him. He was a strong advocate of fair housing and was the first large, tract builder to sell to minorities. He even built a home on his own lot for an NAACP leader. In fact he resigned from the Association of Home Builders in 1958 when racial discrimination policies would not change. He never turned a home buyer down because of race or creed – long before it became the law. According to legend, Joe even offered to buy back homes from those who had trouble accepting their neighbors. He was heard to say to unhappy owners, “If, as you claim, this will destroy property values, I could lose millions…You should be ashamed of yourselves for wasting your time and mine with such pettiness.”
Case Study Program
Ultimately Eichler was interested in building communities. His participation in the famed Case Study Program centered around a revolutionary tract with shared green space between homes. He hired architects who were more interested in being innovative rather than following trends. And as a result, numerous communities like Balboa Highlands stand in testament to one man’s vision.