Best Suburban Neighborhood(s) (2008)

The Eichler Tracts of Orange

Walking into a home built in the early 1960s by architect Joseph Eichler, you're overcome by a desire to dress up like a Mad Men cast member, break out your phonographs and spark up a Chesterfield King. Eichler used cement, large redwood beams and wall-sized glass panes to revolutionize residential architecture. But that's not all that was revolutionary. Where California homes up until that point put the emphasis on the front of the home with big front yards and large porches, Eichler moved garages, bedrooms and bathrooms to the front of the floor plan, hid the entrances from the street, and turned the attention to the safe back yard. Indoors, he created a sense of wide-openness with partial walls and cinder-block fireplaces flanked by floor-to-sloped-ceiling windows. It was an ultra-modern look then, and goddamn it, it's an ultra-modern look now. Most of the history written about Eichler homes focus on his tracts in Northern California, but we have residences built by the master in Fullerton and, most notably, three neighborhoods in Orange. The Fairhaven tract is in the southeast part of town, west of Esplanade Street and north of Fairhaven Avenue. The Fairhills tract is in east Orange, south of Katella Avenue and east of Hewes Street. And the Fairmeadow tract is west of the 55 freeway, along Cambridge Street just north of Taft Avenue. Some Eichlers in Orange are for sale; a real-estate company in town, Oaktree Realtors, specializes in the homes. In fact, as this was being written, two homes with backyard pools were on the market in the $750,000-to-$850,000 range, where just an unburst housing bubble ago similar Eichlers went for $1 million a pop.

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