The Lustron House

August 11th, 2010

      

This month, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota will be hosting a tour of Minnesota's largest grouping of Lustron houses. The Lustron House was one of the more curious answers to the housing shortage after the end of World War II. In 1947, Carl Strandlund designed the prefabricated houses that could be built on-site within two weeks time. The houses were advertised as "maintenance free" since every surface was made of porcelain-enameled steel and the exterior would never need to be repainted. The houses originally came with 8 different layouts and the color choice of semi-matte exterior panels in maize yellow, surf blue, dove gray, or desert tan. At an affordable price of $10,000, Lustron houses were popping up in America at the rate of 1 every 4 days. Many of the 12,000 returning veteran soldiers were forced in desperation to make homes in grain silos, train cars, and chicken coops. My own grandmother's honeymoon home was a converted coop. The Lustron house seemed to be answer to the prayers of a young family, but the Lustron phenomenon was to be short lived. Fearing job loss for union builders, the Lustron houses were forbid in many cities, including Chicago. Then in 1950, the Lustron corporation filed for bankruptcy. Though its productivity was stilted by political concerns and agendas, approximately 2680 Lustron houses were constructed, of which 2000 or so still survive.

     

Don't miss your chance to see one of these unique houses in person. On August 21st, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota will be hosting a tour of the Minnesota's largest grouping of Lustron Houses. The tour begins at 10:00 am and starts at the Washburn Library on 5244 South Lyndale Ave in Minneapolis.

Architect and MIT professor Carl Koch, who had worked briefly for Lustron on a deluxe model that was never produced, later reflected: “When I leaf back through the records-plans, brochures, contracts, the transcript of Congressional autopsies-I admit to a confusion of feelings between the way we regarded it then . . . and the way it turned out to be. Seldom has there occurred a like mixture of idealism, greed, efficiency, stupidity, potential social good, and political evil. Seldom, surely, has a good idea come so close to realization, and been so decisively slugged.” (Sourced from www.lustronpreservation.org)

For further reading or advice on Lustron preservation, visit www.lustronpreservation.org

A documentary covering the history of the Lustron Houses has also been produced, which I have not yet seen.

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