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The story of Lustron house #549 — including 38-page booklet chronicling its disassembly

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-12
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-12. James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.

lustron-house exhibit I’m super into the Lustron story we started yesterday. Recap: Lustron #549 from Arlington, Virginia, disassembled and sent to Columbus, Ohio, where it is being reassembled inside the Ohio Historical Society and will go on exhibit on July 13. Today: A 38 page booklet on the house prepared by Arlington, Virginia — well done! And, professional photos documenting Lustron #549 taken by the U.S. Historical American Buildings Survey (HABS). The way I read the HABS fine print, I am AOK to post these photos ‘cuz we paid for them with our tax dollars.  What a lovely record of this now-famous little house in its natural habitat. Above: The bathroom of #549 was in excellent condition. Just a few things (faucet, shower head) were changed. Continue for the 38-page brochure and more HABS photos –>

The Illustrious Lustron: Guide for the Disassembly and Preservation of America’s Modern Metal Marvel

lustron book
Ae 38-page booklet prepared by Arlington County, Virginia chronicling the history of this house and its disassembly. Wonderfully done!

Here’s the PDF: FINAL Lustron documentation booklet (1)

Great booklet — terrific documentation — well done, authors Cynthia Liccese-Torres and Kim A. O’Connell!

More HABS photos of Lustron #549 in its original location in Arlington, Virginia

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-3
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-3, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-9
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-9, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-6
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-6, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-7
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-7, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-14
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-14, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-8
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-8, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-5
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-10
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-10, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-1
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-1, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-4
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-4, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.
lustron house
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-13, James Rosenthal, photographer, 2006
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-11
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record, Reproduction Number HABS VA-1414-11, James W. Rosenthal, photographer, 2006.

Readers, what do you think?
Could you see yourself living in a Lustron?

lustron-house exhibit

Don’t forget to check out the Ohio Historical Society’s Lustron exhibit, 1950s: Building the American Dream, where you can tour Lustron House #549.

Want to see the HABS photos even larger: Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image:

  1. Melissa says:

    I know for a fact that one of these houses exists in Hays, KS. Used to live in that little town and I admired the assortment of midcentury homes. Thanks for this new series. Very interesting and fun to look at the inside of all these beautiful homes.

  2. Jim Buxton says:

    Great story, Pam, well presented once again, as you always do. Thanks for sharing this. I am very much looking forward to seeing this house live, and I don’t have to travel far at all to see it! Columbus is my home, and I live only about two miles from the exhibit.

    I have gotten to see in the wild a few of the local Lustron houses (which are in sad shape, I’m sorry to say), but never on their insides. To experience a Lustron interior is another reason why I’m really looking forward to the exhibit!

    On a mid-century side note, your article reminded me of Cameron Wood, with whom I was corresponding in June 2012. My father passed in 2011, but in the 1950s in the basement of my family’s 1955 mid-century-modest house, my dad designed, built and sold computers, one of which he left me, my brother and my sister. It’s huge and heavy. Mr Wood and I were in contact about my donating it to the Society for possible inclusion in an exhibit about mid-century Ohio inventors. Then, Columbus was hit by a freak wind storm which knocked out power here for several days. My computer was also damaged and my correspondence with Mr Wood lost. With Mr Wood’s name, I plan to recontact the Society to see if they are still interested in my father’s computer.

    I’d be happy to share photos, impressions or what have you when I see the Lustron exhibit, if you’re interested.

    Thanks again for all your great work!

  3. Sarah says:

    Could definitely live in the three bedroom model. The apartment we (the boy + the cat) live in now is just over 700 sq ft, so a 1000 sq ft house seems completely doable.

    We live in Chicagoland so when the time comes to buy there should be a Lustron on the market so we can at least take a look (hello, Lombard!).

  4. Janet in CT says:

    I don’t recognize these Lustron houses so there must not be alot of them in Connecticut. Does anyone know what the composition is of those square panels? It looks like they economically used the same thing for the exterior, the kitchen walls, and in the bathroom, but maybe the inside ones are different. I just cannot figure out what it is. Very interesting article.

  5. Janet in CT says:

    Just realized I missed the link to the Lustron article which explains alot! Those panels are porcelain enamel and the same inside and out. I would bet they are the exact same panels used in the fifties for the old gas stations. What a smart idea!

  6. pam kueber says:

    Yes, I believe I read that the brain behind the Lustrons also was involved in those old deco style gas stations and such…

  7. Jay says:

    Well, my coffee break went much longer then usual because I had to read the attached PDF. Great reading! I always wondered what the skeleton of the house looked like. It seems the only true flaw of the Lustron was the method of heat and lack of insulation but then most homes built after the war had little or no insulation and single pane glass.

    I wonder how many will be left standing as homes in another 50 years. Glad to see that several are destined for historical installations.

    Great picture of the Christmas tree in front of the window with steel venetian blinds and bark cloth drapes.

  8. Robin, NV says:

    I read through most of the PDF. It’s not suprising that the Krowne House suffered from rust. I wonder if wider eaves would have helped with that. It’s interesting that the homes never really made it out west. I would think our dry climate would have been better for them. Although I’m trying to imagine an all metal house in 100+ temperatures.

    I think 1000 sq. ft. is perfectly adequate for most families. The Lustrons were smartly built with built in bookshelves and storage so you wouldn’t need to take up any floor space by those things. My husband and I lived in a 850 sq. ft 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment and never felt cramped. It’s all in the layout – and accepting that we don’t “need” a lot of the stuff we fill our houses with. I would, however, have a problem with the fact that the Lustrons never changed. You could never paint the house to suit your taste. I wonder if anyone ever tried to add wallpaper to the interior?

  9. Melita says:

    I would happily live in one of these! Fire-proof or at least majorly fire-retardant! The radiant heating is an idea of its time, way ahead of our time…. We have gone backwards as prosperity has allowed us to indulge in wasteful ways. Maybe moving the heater from the sealing to the floor, as heat rises, and add evaporative cooling or geo-thermal cooling possibly combined with Peltier technology dehumidifier for air-conditioning (instead of those monster and powerhog central air units) to maximize comfort. Add hardwood or terrazzo flooring for aesthetic and physical warmth, artwork hung with rear earth magnets (no holes on the walls) and SOME furniture, and voilà, a nice home for a lifetime!

  10. Henry says:

    There are seven Lustron homes in Hays, Kansas, and most are in good, fairly original, condition. These homes were well received when they were built, but local building codes had to be changed to reflect the use of modern materials, such as copper plumbing.

  11. Anne says:

    I love these houses. I’d definitely live in one – it’s just me and my two cats. The carpeting would be replaced with some poured cement in a great color. Would likely paint the house a new color, but only if it kept that lustron shimmer.

    Lustron Houses – the original “tiny house!”

  12. Kat says:

    There are at least two of these in Hammond, Indiana, my hometown. One was blue and the other was pink. My dad said that he actually got to see the parts coming in on a big truck!

  13. Kathryn says:

    I used to live in Broadripple, an area of Indianapolis. There are two Lustrons there. This one was a block from us and I always admired how the owners were true to its era. Look up on google maps 1897 Kessler E Blvd. Indianapolis zoom in for the street view and see the cute little yellow Lustron!
    Kat

  14. James says:

    There are quite a few Lustrons still standing in Lombard, Illinois. I live in neighboring Glen Ellyn and there was at least one in Glen Ellyn- I went to an estate sale there 5 or so years ago before it was torn down. I recall that the pictures in the home were attached to the walls with magnets (the interior walls, as well as the exterior walls were made of metal).

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