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Posts Tagged ‘Danville’

Lustron Homes

June 30th, 2011 Sears Homes 21 comments

“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.

NOTE: LUSTRON HOMES were not sold by Sears!! I don’t know where people get these notions!

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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The Sears Homes in Danville!

March 21st, 2011 Sears Homes 14 comments

On Friday, I traveled to Danville, Virginia and had the good fortune to meet up with Gary, Joyce and Susan, and Tiffany (the indefatigable reporter from the local paper), and tooled around the town looking for kit homes. It was a delightful day and Danville is a city that’s heavy laden with beautiful architecture. Some day, I’d like to take some time and tour the city at a more leisurely pace!

Below are a few pictures of what we found in Danville.

The first house is the Sears Walton. This was one of 370 designs offered by Sears during their 32 years in the kit home business. The Walton was one of their most popular homes, and it’s easy to identify! Notice the large front porch, which extends several feet beyond the main wall of the house. In the front bedroom, there’s a box window with a shed roof. And in the dining room, there’s a gabled bay with three windows.

The Sears Walton

The Sears Walton

Most of the Sears Waltons Ive seen are yellow! Just like this one in Danville.

On this Walton in Danville, someone extended that dining room bay and turned it into a porte cochere! Notice the oversized front porch, with its roof line that's got a slightly different angle than the rest of the house. And you can see a piece of that box windows on the left front. Sears house designs could be "reversed" like this one in Danville. It's the mirror image of the catalog page (above).

The next house is also a kit home, but it was not sold by Sears, but by a company in Iowa known as Gordon Van Tine. Like Sears, they sold homes through mail-order catalogs. The houses were shipped in about 12,000 pieces and came with a 75-page instruction book and a promise that a “man of average abilities” could have the house assembled in 90 days. Sears offered mortgages with their homes (75% loan-to-value, 15 years and 6% interest), and it was a requirement of the mortgage that the home be 100% assembled within four months of shipment!

From the 1921 catalog, this is the Gordon Van Tine #705.

From the 1921 catalog, this is the Gordon Van Tine #705.

And here it is, in the flesh!

And here it is, in the flesh! Notice it still has those wide bands over the second-floor windows. It's unusual for a house of this vintage (1921) to still have original railings, columns, windows and siding!

Next is my favorite find:  The Wardway Lexington! Like Sears, Montgomery Ward also sold kit homes. Sears sold kit homes (12,000 pieces of house and a 75-page instruction book) from 1908-1940. Montgomery Ward started in 1910 and stopped about 1931. I found two “Wardway” kit homes in Danville!

The Montgomery Ward Lexington

The Montgomery Ward Lexington

A beautiful example of The Wardway Lexington!

A beautiful example of The Wardway Lexington!

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston

Sears Lewiston. This one has two windows (centered) instead of three, but these are replacement windows, and there's certainly room for three windows here. Plus, this house still retains the small windows to the left of the fireplace with their original diamond muntins!

This is a kit home from Aladdin, another kit home company that - like Sears - sold houses through mail order!

This is a kit home from Aladdin, another kit home company that - like Sears - sold houses through mail order!

From the side...

This house on Virginia Avenue is a beautiful match to the original catalog picture!

Close-up of the Hampshire (by Aladdin)

Close-up of the Hampshire (by Aladdin)

And in the flesh!

Note the original windows! When I first started learning about Danville, I was told this was a Sears Home, but it's not! It is a kit home, but it's from Aladdin (based in Bay City). This is a common mistake. About 80% of the people who *think* they have a Sears Home are wrong. Most often, they DO have a kit home, but it's from a company other than Sears.

Another Aladdin home - the Winthrop!

Another Aladdin home - the Winthrop!

This Winthrop is in wonderfully oriignal condition, and even has the same paint scheme as the house shown in the catalog!

This "Winthrop" is in wonderfully oriignal condition, and even has the same paint scheme as the house shown in the catalog!

Sears Sunbeam

Sears Sunbeam

Although its been altered (and added onto) this still appears to be a Sears Sunbeam!

Although it's been altered (and added onto with the roof being raised) this still appears to be a Sears Sunbeam!

Wardway

Wardway

Another Wardway Home: The Whatever

Another Wardway Home: The Mt. Vernon

In addition to kit homes, Danville also has prefab homes, such as this Lustron (see below).

“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. An interesting aside: Turns out the Marines at Quantico weren’t too keen on living in a pink house! (The houses were offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.)

On inside walls, nails were a no-no. 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 was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin. Painting porcelain enamel never works out too well.

Lustron in Danville

Lustron in Danville

Lustron

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

And then on down the road a bit in Altavista, I found this perfect Sears Whitehall.

From the 1916 Sears catalog

From the 1916 Sears catalog

Heres a Sears Whitehall, outstanding in his field!  :)

Here's a remarkable Sears Whitehall. It fact, it's outstanding in his field! :)

And one of my favorite non-house finds in Danville! A tribute to “Old 97″! After I left Danville, I took the “mighty rough road” from Danville to Lynchburg, and it wasn’t too bad - for a car.  :)

Wreck of the Old 97 is commemorated with this mural in downtown Danville.

"Wreck of the Old 97" is commemorated with this mural in downtown Danville. If you know the meaning of the little white and yellow birds (upper right), please leave a comment!

Did you enjoy reading about the houses in Danville? If so, please share this link with others! Or copy and paste the link on facebook!

To learn how to identify Sears Homes, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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