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Old 02-08-2004, 10:22 AM   #1
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Unhappy Lustron Homes

I watched a PBS show about the Lustron Home last night and sadly shook my head to what could have happened.

Lustron has some similarities to Airstream.

- It was pure American ingenuinity.
- It was conceived by one single minded individual.
- It was a unique design.
- It used modern materials to their fullest.
- It had a plant in Ohio.

Here are two sites to give you an idea about what I am talking about:

Lustron could have changed to history of housing in America if there weren't so many forces bent on destroying it. There are many examples. A few. The Tucker car, the Macintosh computer, Lustron homes, Airstream...well Airstream seems to be holding its own.

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Old 02-08-2004, 11:01 AM   #2
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Lustron Homes

Davydd, Thanks for your post. I have always been interested in Lustron homes. We have several scattered about my town and, in keeping with their original promise, all of them still look tidy, colorful, low-maintainence, and economical.
On several occasions I have pointed one out to my wife and proceeded to give a 'short' history lesson. Now, with the added information I gleaned from the sites you posted, I can provide her with a more in-dept monolouge before she she sighs and says, "Uh-huh."
If it weren't for the dire housing shortage following WWII, Lustrons might have been considered the answer to a question that no one asked.
Oh well, I enjoy such things!

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Old 02-08-2004, 01:40 PM   #3
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Interesting stuff,

How many were actually built?

I wonder what their downfall was, I suspect they were a problem to heat and cool as I think they would suffer from a high amount of temperature conductivity, not unlike Airstreams.

It would be cool to see one in person but I doubt if there were many sold here down south.

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Old 02-08-2004, 02:09 PM   #4
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I have a Friend who has one in Tampa.

He says the only problem he has had was that the shower in the bathroom rusted out and the furnace tape they used has gotten hard and brittle. Sounds like it was a great idea, but never rally got off the ground. There were some more links off the first one that went to magazine articles of the day and how the government was the main source of funding and the ramp up time took sop long that the housing shortage was nearly over by the time the plant was able to run at full speed. There was also a matter of the design being revolutionary and the construction method was completely new. Change on these lines can take a while to be accepted.

Despite receiving more than 20,000 orders, Lustron was able to manufacture only 2,498 houses before the company declared bankruptcy in 1950. The plant closed in 1951.
Brett G
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Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. -- Plato

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Old 02-08-2004, 02:42 PM   #5
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The PBS documentary by WOSU implies government chicanery and politics mostly led to Lustron's demise. Production ran from 1948 to 1950. The housing boom was just getting started. You have to remember what they produced was only a beginning that could have gotten better and the housing industry suffers to this day with lack of innovation and cost control. There are at least seven Lustron homes in south Minneapolis and the owners covet them with pride. That should answer the heating issues.

Post WWII seemed to be a dog eat dog business world. That was also the period that General Motors deliberately destroyed public rail/trolley transit to sell buses by making sweet deals, a lot under the table, with cities.

Besides the two sites I selected, a Google search on "Lustron Home" will produce a lot of hits and you will see the owners are probably as fanatical as us Airstream owners.
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Old 02-08-2004, 04:00 PM   #6
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Lustron Homes

There are two of these units in my old neighborhood.... Still in good shape.
Worry will never change the outcome!!!
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Old 02-08-2004, 05:01 PM   #7
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Same here...

We have two in town, one is three doors up from me! Great looking little house! The Cedar Rapids Gazette did a special on the Lustrons a few months ago. It was very interesting; particularly since there are so many of them around eastern Iowa. Folks are beginning to restore them to their 1950 glory... one couple has even furnished theirs with nothing but '50s furniture. It was pretty interesting to see some of that long-gone stuff we grew up with.

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Old 02-08-2004, 05:26 PM   #8
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Seems strange I remember touring these with my family as a kid. And the family talk after.... biggest drawback in our area (a mere 55 miles north and west of Cedar Rapids!) were:
no basement
no easy way to add on or modify for future needs
only two bedrooms

You might see what I am talking about if you are familiar at all with Levittown, then and now.
There are very, very few Levittown houses in original condition! Nearly all have been modified to one degree or another.
America was a growing country at the time.... literally! Think Baby Boom! It was still going on! How many kids in the average family then? Something like what, three? So that meant at least three bedrooms for middle class Ameica... one for the girls, one for the boys, one for the parents. And no basement literally meant kids under foot!
Here in the midwest, basements, attics, and garages were where kids were sent to play if the weather outdoors was too bad. Or the neighbors... but that's another story...... grin.

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Old 02-08-2004, 07:22 PM   #9
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Basement - Blessing and Curse

Well, I grew up in a post WWII two bedroom one bath house not quite as big as the Lustron with mother, father, two brothers, sister and grandmother! Thank god we had a basement. Guess where us boys ended up? Next to the coal fired octopus furnace in the basement. My school friends thought we were well off because our house was fairly new and we had a coal bin and central heating. I guess standards were different back then. In context those Lustron houses were probably quite revolutionary.

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