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1948 - 1950: Lustron Homes

Post-War America Experiments With Pre-Fab Housing

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Made of steel coated with porcelain enamel, Lustron Homes were manufactured like cars and transported across the USA. Find facts about Lustron Homes below.
Original Prototype of a Lustron Home in Hinsdale, Illinois

Original Prototype of a Lustron Home in Hinsdale, Illinois

Publicity image courtesy KDN Films, Inc

Lustron Homes have these features:

  • One-story with a rectangular Ranch Style shape
  • Roof and walls made of prefabricated steel panels
  • Panels coated with colored porcelain enamel (the same finish found on bathtubs and appliances)
  • Four factory-colored finishes: Desert Tan, Dove Gray, Maize Yellow, or Surf Blue
  • Magnets or glued-on hooks used to hang pictures on metal walls
  • Concrete slab foundation
  • Two or three bedrooms
  • Radiant heating in the ceiling
  • Built-in bookcase, china cabinet, and overhead cabinets
  • Combination washing machine / dishwasher

About Lustron Homes:

At the end of World War II, the United States didn't have enough housing for the 12-million soldiers returning home. President Harry Truman pressured builders and suppliers to construct affordable housing. Many architects and designers, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, tried to design inexpensive prefab housing that could be built quickly. But one of the most promising ventures was the Lustron Home by businessman and inventor Carl Strandlund. Vowing to mass-produce steel houses at the rate of 100 a day, Strandlund landed $37 million in government loans.

The first Lustron house was produced in March 1948. Over the next two years, 2,498 Lustron Homes were manufactured. The steel houses were made like cars on conveyor belts in a former aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio. Flatbed trucks transported the Lustron panels to 36 states, where they were assembled on concrete slabs using nuts and bolts. Assembly took about two weeks. The completed house cost between $7,000 and $10,000, not including the foundation and the lot.

Orders for some 20,000 Lustron Homes poured in, but by 1950 the Lustron Corporation was bankrupt. Today, well-preserved Lustron homes are scarce. Many have been demolished. Others have been altered as homeowners added drywall walls and new exterior siding.

Lustron Homes on the Web:

Further Reading About Lustron Homes:

  • Lustron Homes: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment
    by Thomas T. Fetters (compare prices)

Film About Lustron Homes:

See More Metal Houses:

Learn More:

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  5. Build a Factory-Made Home
  6. Lustron Homes

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