Eichler homes in Ramapo, New York? The California communities of modern redwood and glass homes practically invented what is now called “midcentury modern,” but it turns out that you do not have to travel to Palo Alto or Orange County to see similar examples.
A news story in the May 5, 1962 issue of the New York Times announced that Jospeh L. Eichler “would start building his first East Coast homes in Rockland County, New York.” These homes, the article went on, embody “many features of a West Coast house, including the extensive use of glass for doors and walls to merge indoor living with attractive gardens and patios.” The homes, the Times claimed, would cost “$29,000 to $35,000 and have four bedrooms, living rooms, dinning space, two bathrooms, and a garage.” Eichler, who developed the homes but did not design them, claimed he “asked the architects to design homes that would give full scope to the desire of American families for outdoor living.” Their architect, from the firm Jones and Emmons, said, “Redwood roofs and Philippine mahogany paneling would be used in the houses.” The homes had 1/3-acre gardens fenced in for privacy. Large plate glass windows brought these sylvan retreats into the home and made them as much a part of the living space as the area under the roof.
Eichler, who was born in the Bronx but moved to the West Coast in 1940, believed that “families in this part of the country needlessly miss the opportunity for outdoor living [and that] New York hides its light under a bushel when it comes to sunshine.” He said, “New York enjoys sunshine six days out of ten year around.”
Though Eichler had hoped the development in Chestnut Hill would eventually have 216 homes, only three were built in the forested landscape. They turned out to be not that well suited to the region after all. Eichler’s signature flat roofs leaked and all the transparency intended to bring the outside in also brought in cold winds through the large expanses of single pane glass. While there are many “ranch style” homes on the East Coast, none of the subdivisions had the style and design qualities of Eichler communities and these three remain as an example of what might have been on the right coast as well as the left coast.