Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Veterans of Steel, Homes of Steel

Lustron homes, a novel home for a unique time in history
After WW2 ended, veterans came home wanting normalcy in their lives.  They wanted wives, children, jobs, and a place to live.  #1, #2, and #3 were readily available, but finding affordable homes was not.  

But then American ingenuity kicked in. The Greatest Generation had struggled through the Depression and then WW2. What they needed would be created and now.

Lustron Corporation, a division of Chicago Vitreous Enamel Corporation, was founded in 1947 and began to construct 15,000 homes in that year and then 30,000 (according to this info above) in 1948. The houses cost between $8,500 and $9,500

These houses were unique, to say the least: all steel

The houses are made of steel, top to bottom. Cabinets, closets, kitchens, doors, walls, door jams, support beams---everything is steel.  (Notice the built-ins throughout the house in the YouTube video below.) Houses were pre-fabricated and assembled on site, in two weeksSteel slates are on the roof. Enameled steel square panels cover the exterior. No repainting, roof repair, termite damage are in these houses.


4 minute video

 Sears and Roebuck had perfected the mail-order houses and Lustron houses were equally well-designed. To try to describe the process is impossible in just a few words. So the reader may find the information at the site above.

Only about 2,500 or so homes remain, some on the Registry of Historical Houses.

What amazes me is that my hometown of 3,000 has seven or more of these houses in Illinois.  They are all occupied and enjoyed by people whose names I know. Five of the seven are shown below.


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Construction
  


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Newspaper article from hometown newspaper

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Newspaper article from hometown paper

And these are the houses in my hometown:


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North of the town in a more rural area

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This house was occupied by State Congressman Paul Findlay in the 1960s

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Note the square panels, made of enameled steel. Most houses have replaced porches, since they are of wood which decays.  
On North Franklin St.

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The Johnson family lives here.

These homes have lasted for nearly 70 years. 

Pretty amazing. A need arises and then some creative individuals come up with a solution, American ingenuity at its best in an incredible time.

P.S. The largest number of homes are in Ohio (a plant that built the Lustrons),  and Illinois.

   

32 comments:

  1. Great houses...but oh watching that video and looking at the dishes and furniture and appliances makes me homesick.

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    1. Me, too. All that furniture and such stirs up such nostalgia.

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  2. Sure goes to show what can be done. It's just too bad mankind waits until they are at the edge before kicking into gear sometimes.

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    1. Perhaps this architectural innovation can be reworked in other parts of the world.

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  3. It was an interesting era, to be sure. When talking about that time, I'm reminded of the movie Apartment for Peggy. The postwar era is fascinating.

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    1. Have you ever seen "Pleasantville"? That 1950s with Toby Maquire (?) who finds he and his sister back in a television idealic town. So big on memories.

      When we all were growing up, this was normal for us!

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  4. You really wouldn't know they were made of steel. Prefab designs - earlier than what we have now. Much earlier than I thought we had!

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    1. I would love to go to the Ohio museum and stroll through that house.

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  5. My dad regularly pointed these homes out to us on our Sunday drives.

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  6. A very innovative and cost effective idea when housing was sorely needed. They look nice, sturdy too and I like the idea of built-ins, but not for everything. I like to be able to rearrange things until I get it just right, but for kitchens and bathrooms, built-ins are the best option. Laundries too.
    Here in Australia, land of the termites, many new homes are being constructed with steel framing, but walls are still brick or stone with tiled or colorbond roofing, which is powder-coated galvanised iron or steel I think. Interior walls are plaster or gyprock which you call drywall. Built-in cabinets are almost always wood or some form of imitation wood, veneer or laminate.

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    1. Sounds very innovative. Wise planning. What do the houses look like?!

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    2. Older homes are mostly Villa or Bungalow style or perhaps rambling farmhouses, made of sandstone or less often, bluestone, newer homes are brick, some with rendered fronts for street appeal, some rendered all over with cement then painted. Post war housing was a "cookie cutter" type with a few variations in style, but almost all were small and cheap for returning servicemen and their families. There are pre-fab houses around also, the type that can be loaded on a large truck and moved into place on a brick or concrete foundation. I don't have many photos of houses I've lived in over the years, mostly I take photos of the people in them.

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  7. I grew up ion a planned community like that. . My family moved from NYC to Levittown, PA. in 1960. It was my parent’s dream home. It was small (1000 sq ft.) one bathroom, and a little piece of land in the new suburbia. It was built in different sections with only one type of home in the individual sections. There was the rancher (what we bought), the cape cod, the country cluber and two others. We were segregated by what one could afford. My parents paid $10,000 and only needed $100.00 down. It was built there because the steel mills were there and jobs would be plentiful for the veterans returning from the Korean War and WWII. The homes, have been modified and upgraded over these 70+ yrsrs and still look surprisingly nice for their age. The steel mills were gone in the seventies but other industries came to replace them. My sister still lives there.

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    1. I have heard of Levittown. What a great community to have stayed cohesive for so many decades. Thanks for such a great telling of how communities come together with good planning.

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  8. There is a crying need for this ingenuity to be repeated. World-wide.

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    1. The tech and designs surely are available. These require grabbing and using them. I know that in S. America, housing very similar to this have been constructed for workers and families who work at farming industries. watched a documentary on such.

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  9. This post reminds me of our prefabs which, I am told, still exist in a certain area where I used to live. A little row of five or six, always admired for their historic start.

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    1. Such a leap at the time. Are the houses still there? I hope so!

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  10. What fun! Since I live in Columbus, OH, I will have to go to the museum sometime and see the house.

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  11. Absolutely wonderful. As is the fact that several are still standing.
    I've probably asked you this before, but what part of IL? My parents came from Southern IL and I grew up in Central IL.

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    1. My hometown area is midlands, next to the Mississippi. Located between Quincy and Jacksonville, 90 miles from Springfield.

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  12. PS Franky, Monster Kitty came from Southern IL:)

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    1. Nothing like a Monster Kitty to remind you who is boss.

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  13. I love learning things like this. It seems people were content with less space then. Now we all want room.

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  14. Hi Susan - I saw this earlier ... glad Alex prompted me to come over and take another look. There are some innovative things going on now - one area in south London is being protected as a postwar development out of old Anderson shelters (corrugated iron). But I hadn't realised they'd produced these stainless steel ones - bet they're really good. As everyone says ... we do need housing creativity in this day and age - I think in London they're converting shipping containers ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Shipping containers! Such a great re-purposing.

      When we were in graduate school, one section of married housing was Quonset buildings from a WW2 base.

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  15. Dear Susan, I found this fascinating. I knew nothing about it and I so love to learn. Thank you! Now I'd like to walk into one and just experience it. Peace.

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    1. Seeing the old familiar furniture, TV, newspapers, melamine dishes and such would fill me with joy.

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  16. I really appreciate your professional approach.These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

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Go ahead...it won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!