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Joseph Eichler

Real Estate Developer and Home Designer

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Real estate developer Joseph Eichler was not an architect, but he revolutionized residential architecture. In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, many suburban tract homes in the United States were modeled after Eichler Houses built by Joseph Eichler's firm.

Born:
1900 to European Jewish parents in New York City

Died:
1974

Education:
Business degree from New York University

Early Career:
As a young man, Joseph Eichler worked for a San Francisco-based poultry business owned by his wife's family. Eichler became treasurer for the company and moved to California in 1940.

Influences:
For three years, Eichler and his family rented Frank Lloyd Wright's 1941 Usonian style Bazett House in Hillsborough, California. The family business was facing a scandal, so Eichler launched a new career in real estate.

At first Eichler constructed conventional homes. Then Eichler hired several architects to apply Frank Lloyd Wright's ideas to suburban tract homes for middle class families. A business partner, Jim San Jule, helped craft shrewd publicity. An expert photographer, Ernie Braun, created the images that promoted Eichler Homes as carefree and sophisticated.

About Eichler Homes:
Between the 1949 and 1974, Joseph Eichler's company, Eichler Homes, constructed about 11,000 houses in California and three houses in New York state. A. Quincy Jones was one of Eichler's architects. Eichler's company also became known for advocating fair housing during an era when builders and Realtors often refused to sell homes to minorities. In 1958, Eichler resigned from the National Association of Home Builders to protest the organization's policies of racial discrimination.

In the end, Joseph Eichler's social and artistic ideals cut into business profits. The value of Eichler Homes declined. Eichler sold his company in 1967, but continued to build houses until he died in 1974.

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