Lustron

  • Architect: Carl Strandlund, Columbus
  • 1948-1050
  • Approximately 1,500 remaining locations (www.lustronpreservation.org)

As the United States came out of its involvement in World War II, it faced the problem of a growing housing shortage for returning G.I.s eager to start their new lives and families in the post war boom economy. The government was interested in many ways to try and solve this issue. One of their ideas was to explore the possibilities of premanufactured housing.

Carl Strandlund, a Chicago inventor, had the idea of pursuing a solution that utilized prefabricated enamel steel houses. These houses would have the advantage of being very durable, require less maintenance than traditionally constructed houses and be more affordable than traditional construction.

The Lustron house was available in one of four styles and eight exterior colors. The houses have enamel coated steel panel exteriors and interiors with tripartite windows and the trademark signature of the “zig zag” steel column near the front door.

Strandlund based his company at the former Curtiss-Wright plant in Columbus which helps explain the prevalent number of Lustron houses that still exist in Columbus. The plant started producing housing units in 1948 and continued through 1950. While this solution might have eventually proved fruitful, the company was forced to close due to issues involving building code compliance, distribution of houses, mismanagement and corruption. Of the initial order of 20,000 houses, approximately 2,500 were manufactured and assembled before the company was forced to cease their operations. Out of that number, less than 1,500 remain today as they are gradually lost to age, disrepair and neglect.

An example of a Lustron House is currently on display at the Ohio Historical Center and provides the opportunity to see both the exterior and interior of this house.

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