World War II was over, and millions of returning GI’s were anxious to settle down and start families, only they wanted an immediate bite of the American Dream Pie, so they wanted a house and a white picket fence and a car in the car-port, instead of crammed in city living, which had been the norm for a century or so in the United States. With the same plan of attack that had factories that one day were producing automobiles retooling to make B-25 bombers, a few businessmen of the time went to work on the very real housing shortage of the time. One of the results of this massive but uncoordinated operations was the Lustron House, a unique marriage of metal and prefab that really seemed to take off in some parts of the country. Lustron Houses were the idea of Illinois’ businessman and inventor, Carl Strandlund’s and were built in Columbus, Ohio. He looked around at the familiar White Castel and Fanny May Candy buildings and thought: why not? Good enough for greasy burgers and fattening candy, good enough for a growing family.
Prefab houses had been around for a long time prior to Lustron. Sears and Montgomery Wards and others were in the business of shipping houses ready to build, but for the most part they were all stick –that is, wood. The Lustron was the advance guard of what came out of the war effort–metal planes, tanks, jeeps, etc. — with an eye towards the burgeoining rocket and space age. Here was a house that wouldn’t be subject to termites or to wear and tear or painting. Low maintenance and low cost. And all metal. The houses ranged, unassmebled, from $8000 to $15000.
Lustrons ended up from Venezuela to Alaska. Today, there are 2553 known to exist, with some being in clusters, such as 12 in Lincolnshire, in Chicago and a whole bunch in Lombard, Illinois. Finding a Lustron in original condition is rare, due to modifications over the years.
Lustron’s star shone only briefly in the American history of pre-fab homes, with the first house rolling off the assembly line to the company’s bankruptcy in 1950.
Owners of Lustron’s often praise them for being ahead of their times, with spacious and open layouts, and with the maintenance-free aspect of the buildings.
The video takes you back to a time when if you wanted to hang something on the wall you got a magnet with a hook, and then you sat in the living room and ate a Swanson TV Dinner on a tray table while watching one of three channels on antennee TV.