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Lustron Homes

“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”

The Lustron was an all-steel house, with walls made of 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).

The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse. The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise because a topic for a fascinating documentary.

About 2,500 Lustrons were created.

Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished. Turns out those macho Marines at Quantico weren’t too keen on living in a pink house! (The houses were offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.)

On the inside walls of the Lustrons, nails could not be used. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville, Virginia was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin.

Painting a Lustron is akin to painting the top of your grandma’s 1965 Lady Kenmore washing machine. Painting porcelain enamel never works out too well.

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville, Virginia

Lustron

Close-up of the window on Danville's Lustron.

Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and not surprisingly, Columbus has an abundance of Lustrons.  These little post-WW2 prefabs were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses - definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins, WV was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Lustron Home in Elkins, WV

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Close-up of 2x2 metal tiles on Lustron Walls.

Lustron

Lustron in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The three-bedroom Lustrons were far less common than the two-bedroom Lustron. This one is in very good condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

Close-up

Close-up of Lustron wall and window. Homeowner has done a pretty good job of maintaining the home, with touched-up paint applied to exterior. When the porcelain enamel finish is nicked or chipped, it must be painted to prevent rusting of the steel panels. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These shingles are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition.

The steel roof on a Lustron outlasts contemporary roofing materials. These "shingles" are now 60 years old and still in excellent condition. Photo is courtesy of Rachel Shoemaker and may not be reproduced without permission.

The next Lustron is in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s been painted beige, but it should be draped in black for this little house should now be mourned. This little house has died, but the body hasn’t been buried yet. There is significant putrification occurring.

Very, very sad.

And heres a very sad little Lustron (post-WW2 prefab), suffering greatly from carbuncles of the skin. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Painting a Lustron is exactly like trying to paint the top of a 1960s Lady Kenmore washing machine. Never a good idea.

This sad little Lustron appears to have died from carbuncles of the flesh. Lustrons were made with 2x2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel coating. Never a good idea to paint a Lustron. There are about 2,500 Lustrons in the country, and they really were ahead of their time. It's heart-wrenching to see one of these remarkable homes abused and abandoned.

Too sad for words.

Too sad for words.

To learn more, I recommend Tom Fetters’ book, “Lustron Homes.” It can be found at Amazon.com

To read more about Sears Homes, click here.

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  1. Steve Bunch
    August 11th, 2013 at 18:53 | #1

    There are 3 Lustrons in Belleville, Il, just east of St. Louis, Missouri. 1 was recently for sale for about $65,000

  2. Lisa Ball
    September 5th, 2015 at 16:57 | #2

    My husband and I just purchased a gray Lustron Sears Home.

    It was a foreclosure so we haven’t been able to really go inside and check it out.

    From the outside it is in pretty good shape. Can’t wait to see this 1953 gem!

  3. September 5th, 2015 at 20:31 | #3

    Hi Lisa,

    Lustron and Sears were two different companies. There’s a book called “Lustron” (simple title, but great read) which gives a comprehensive background on Lustron.

  4. Dale Wolicki
    September 6th, 2015 at 00:13 | #4

    Oh, Lustron Homes are so cool. Hopefully the interior is not too bad.

    There is lots of literature available on Lustron. Whenever Rose and I are out on the road we watch for Lustrons!

  5. Lisa Ball
    April 30th, 2016 at 14:07 | #5

    Thanks for that clarification. You are so correct. Do you know of anyone that would have an original kitchen for sale?
    @Sears Homes

  6. Steve McLoughlin
    April 28th, 2017 at 13:08 | #6

    This story contains errors.

    There are not 2,500 remaining; that’s the total produced by Lustron, and the estimated number remaining is between 1,500 and 2,000.

    The others were razed and replaced.

    Columbus NEVER had an abundance of Lustrons; there were many cheaper entry-level homes available there when Lustron operated.

    They were wildly popular, with a backlog of some 10,000 orders received when the company folded.

    The federal government forced the company into bankruptcy when it called in its loan to it.

    They are not “made of” the 2 x 2 panels; they are clad with them.

    Strandlund has no “s” at the end of his name.

    The Quantico homes were destroyed because they were deemed outmoded, and were replaced with large, luxury homes for military personnel.

    They had been painted pink and other colors not original to the homes.

    The “macho” residents and their color preferences were no consideration in replacing the homes.

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