The Bazett House - Hillsborough - Page 3

A 'paradise lost' that Joe Eichler never regained—the legendary Bazett house of Frank Lloyd Wright

Nonetheless, Eichler didn't want to give up the house, and as Betty Frank recalled, became uncooperative. "Our realtor told us the Eichlers had been sabotaging things, and wouldn't let anyone show the house," Betty recalled. "But when we drove up to the house, lo and behold, Mrs. Eichler was outside rummaging through some things and couldn't escape us."

Betty FrankEven though Betty knew little of Wright's accomplishments, she instantly fell in love with his design. "I went absolutely berserk over it," she admitted. "The house had everything I wanted—beauty, a big garden, and it was sheltered."

Shortly afterwards, the Franks completed the sale. Despite Joe Eichler's intimation that he would only move out feet first if any sale went through, the Franks gave the Eichlers 90-days' notice and hoped for the best. Three months later, the Franks were relieved when Eichler reluctantly gave up his hold, and moved his entire family to the Beresford Country Club in San Mateo.

Four years later, after gaining a foothold in merchant building, Eichler returned to the Bazett, and brought with him an entourage of business associates to tour the house which had inspired his career. The Franks were not at home, but Betty's mother let them in. When Eichler stepped inside, the memories of his 'paradise lost' seemed to overtake him. "My mother told me there were even tears running down Mr. Eichler's face," Betty remembered. "The man was obviously very touched coming back."

A part of the Bazett house mystery remains unsolved—neither Louise nor her family have been located—but Betty Frank recently put together other pieces of the puzzle with the help of Sidney Bazett's children from a later marriage. Following the completion of the Bazett house in 1940, Sidney and Louise separated. Over the next two years, Sidney changed his life dramatically, as he would do often during his life. He quickly moved from Bank of America to the presidency of a San Francisco securities firm, and then on to Florida, where he held a Lt. Colonel's rank in the U.S. Army Air Corp until war's end.

Always eager for a challenge, and perhaps as restless as he claimed in his 1939 correspondence to Wright, Bazett married six times during his 81 years and held countless distinguished career positions, even as a politician and Oregon state representative, until his death in 1983.

Not unlike Eichler, Sidney Bazett found a way to cope with the hidden costs of building a house in the spirit of the Bazett, and continued to draw from the home as a source of inspiration. In 1954, he commissioned an architect to design a modern-styled house, in Grant's Pass, Oregon, similar in many ways to the Hillsborough home he left behind. And to his children, he passed on a deep appreciation for quality design, and just enough family history to encourage them to finally meet Betty Frank and the Bazett house face to face for the very first time.


Wright and Bazett house construction photos and Wright letters
© copyright 1999 Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ
Betty Frank today photo: Doug Baird
Bazett house today photo: Robert Skolmen
Sidney Bazett photo and letters courtesy Bazett family


 

 

Introduction:
Eichler's Wrightian Experience

By Paul Adamson

A great admirer of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Joseph Eichler had moved his family to California from New York in 1940, and three years later had the rare opportunity to rent a Usonian House Wright designed for Sidney and Louise Bazett, in Hillsborough, just south of San Francisco. Although consisting of only a living/dining room and three small ship's cabin-like bedrooms, including the guest house, the Bazett residence accommo-
dated Eichler and his family, sometimes as many as seven people at a time, from 1943 until 1945, when the house was sold to Louis and Betty Frank.

Eichler's experience living in the Bazett house was profound, and inspired a change in his life. He had been the treasurer for the family produce business, but was forced to change careers when the company encountered difficulties during the war. Inspired by Wright's use of natural materials and his masterful manipulation of daylight, he later remarked that the Bazett house introduced him to "an entirely new way of living." Living there, he wrote, "was such a wonderful experience," that he determined to go into the house-building business himself with the idea of producing "contemporary houses for sale to the person of average income."