X-100 History

Grand Opening Brochure from 1956

Builder Joe Eichler saw the X-100 as his vehicle to explore steel-framed housing and perhaps, in the process, revolutionize residential construction; to showcase advanced household appliances, some of them prototypes; and to promote his in-progress San Mateo Highlands development.

 

The innovative house turned out to be a promotional bonanza. While it was open to the public during its first three months, beginning in October 1956, the X-100 reportedly attracted over 150,000 visitors and extensive national press coverage.

 

To guide and inform visitors upon their arrival at the X-100, Eichler issued a 12-page ‘grand opening’ informational brochure. To see a large view of that brochure, please click on the brochure’s front cover below.

Above: front cover to the X-100’s ‘grand opening’ brochure, October 1956.

The X-100 has three bedrooms, two living rooms, and a kitchen grouped around the perimeter, with a central utility core containing two bathrooms and utility and laundry areas. Instead of the open atrium of many Eichler houses that would follow, it has two interior gardens, dubbed the ‘entry garden’ and the ‘game garden’ by the company. There is also a children's play yard, which the two smaller bedrooms open onto, while the master bedroom has glass doors to the backyard. The thin steel supports and use of glass sliding doors both inside and along the entire rear facade create a sense of openness. The inside entrance to the master bedroom has curtains (today made of metal chain) rather than a wall and door.

The X-100’s structure consists of six bents, of which the three at the carport end are longer, of 4-inch H-section columns approximately 13 feet apart supporting 8-inch I-beams. (U.S. Steel indicated in an ad that 16-inch beams would have been necessary if wood had been used.) The beams protrude under the roof at the front of the house; Jones turned down the steel decking to form a fascia. The roof was originally covered with tar and gravel, and in recent years replaced with sprayed polyurethane foam. 

In the X-100 gardens, the floor consists of circular concrete ‘steppingstones’ of various diameters, between 18 inches and nine-and-a-half inches, plus some in the entry garden made up of sections of circles to make cloudlike forms. Each garden has three planting areas where bare earth was left between the circles. The house’s underfloor radiant heating system extended to the garden pads. The beams and columns are painted deep brownish red (‘deep-tone cinnamon’) and the corrugated metal ceiling light grey. For privacy, the sidewalls have panels of the high-density plywood used for concrete forms. At the front of the house, concrete blocks are used for the facade, the wall of the play area, and planters; these are mostly half blocks, with both blocks turned sideways and full blocks forming a decorative pattern. 

In addition to track lighting on both sides of the interior, the X-100 has plastic skylights (‘skydomes’), totaling 32 feet in length, that span the width of the house. It made extensive use of Formica in white, grey, charcoal, and primrose yellow, including reversible white and yellow panels on the kitchen cabinets. Modern and prototype equipment in addition to the underfloor radiant heating (standard in Eichler houses) included a black dishwasher said to incorporate five years of research, a ‘pulverator’ (garbage disposal), a Thermador double oven with ‘vari-speed control’ and attached to a liquor storage cabinet, a refrigerator-freezer, a washer-dryer, a water heater, a radio and intercom over the kitchen counter, a built-in five-function blender, and a two-burner cooktop for warming food between the two sliding sections of the built-in dining table. There are dual bathtub controls, for use when showering and when bathing.

Originally the X-100 had a rotating conical-shaped fireplace (today it is stationary) in the entry garden. Interior decor was by Knorr and Associates, furniture by Herman Miller, and accessories by Gump's. Total cost to build was approximately $125,000. A metal star sculpture that remains on the front exterior facade is by Matt Kahn, an artist who worked with Eichler as his company’s interior design consultant.