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Eichler Homes

Joseph Eichler was a post-war merchant builder who embraced the principles of modernism in an effort to provide progressive and affordable housing to middle income families.  From the late 1940s to the late 1960s, Eichler built some 11,000 homes, the majority in Northern California.  Eichler homes are characterized by their post and beam construction, open floor plans, floor-to-ceiling windows, radiant heating and in later models, their interior atriums.  Although “Eichlers” can be viewed all over the SF Bay Area, two cities are must-sees for the Eichler enthusiast - Sunnyvale and Palo Alto.  In Sunnyvale, one can view the full evolution of Eichler’s work and in Palo Alto, two Eichler subdivisions, Green Gables and Greenmeadow, are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eichler Fairbrae Community Center, Sunnyvale, 1962

Biscayne Model Home, Lakewood Village Home Brochure, Sunnyvale, 1957, Image courtesy of the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association




Branden model homes
had exotic names like
“The Biscayne”
and “The Capri”...



Branden Homes

Eichler was but one of many residential builders working feverishly in the Santa Clara Valley during the 1950s and 1960s. Contrary to popular belief, he did not have a monopoly on the modern ranch home.  Mackay, Gavello, and Branden were just some of the other builders serving up versions of contemporary living.  Branden, for example, developed Lakewood Village and Tropicana Village, planned housing communities in Sunnyvale and San Jose.  Branden model homes had exotic names like “The Biscayne” and “The Capri,” offered the latest in modern conveniences, and in many cases, could be purchased with little or no money down.


Bali Hai Apartments, Sunnyvale, 1958

Bali Hai Apartments

Bali Hai.  Legendary lost isle of Polynesian maidens or… mid-century apartment complex in Sunnyvale, California?  The Bali Hai Apartments are a reminder that not everyone was on the market for conventional housing in the post-war years.  Duplexes, fourplexes, and apartment buildings were constructed all over the Santa Clara Valley, along with standalone homes.  The Bali Hai Apartments also reflect the American fascination with the South Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s. The Valley indeed had its own tributes to TIKI.

Magic Sands Mobile Home Park

The Magic Sands Mobile Home Park was established in the early 1960s, offering folks of moderate means the opportunity to experience “Shangri-la Living.”  While Magic Sands residents did not have individual lawns and attached garages, they did have a communal recreation center, swimming pool, putting green, beauty salon, and gas station… among other amenities.  Today, Magic Sands appears much like it did in the 1960s and its ultra-modern community center, with its uniquely shaped roofline, is a mid-century architectural masterpiece.

Magic Sands Recreation Center, San Jose, c. 1962