“Never before has America seen a house like this,” read a 1949 advertisement for the Lustron, also hailed as “the house of the future.”
The Lustron was an all-steel house, with walls made of 2×2 20-gage metal panels, with a porcelain enamel finish. The roof was porcelain enamel steel, and unlike traditional roofing shingles, has a lifespan of at least 60 years (and perhaps much more).
The modest ranches were designed and created by entrepreneur Carl Strandlunds to help deal with the severe housing shortage after World War II. Unfortunately, Lustrons never became very popular. Three years after the company first started (in 1947), it went into bankruptcy. Sixty years later, there’s still much debate about the reasons for the company’s collapse. The debate over the reasons for Lustron’s demise because a topic for a fascinating documentary.
About 2,500 Lustrons were created.
Quantico, Virginia was home to the largest collection of Lustrons in the country, but those 60 houses are now gone. Some were moved, most were demolished. Turns out those macho Marines at Quantico weren’t too keen on living in a pink house! (The houses were offered in pink, blue, brown and yellow.)
On the inside walls of the Lustrons, nails could not be used. Instead, magnets are used to hang pictures. The porcelain enamel finish on the 2×2 panels is tough, which makes re-painting the panels virtually impossible. The Lustron (seen below) in Danville, Virginia was painted, and it’s trying hard to shed this second skin.
Painting a Lustron is akin to painting the top of your grandma’s 1965 Lady Kenmore washing machine. Painting porcelain enamel never works out too well.
NOTE: LUSTRON HOMES were not sold by Sears!! I don’t know where people get these notions!
Lustron was based in Columbus, Ohio and not surprisingly, Columbus has an abundance of Lustrons. These little post-WW2 prefabs were remarkable, strong and long-lasting houses – definitely ahead of their time. Finding this three-bedroom model in Elkins, WV was a special treat, as the three-bedroom Lustrons were very rare.
The next Lustron is in Rocky Mount, NC. It’s been painted beige, but it should be draped in black for this little house should now be mourned. This little house has died, but the body hasn’t been buried yet. There is significant putrification occurring.
Very, very sad.
To learn more, I recommend Tom Fetters’ book, “Lustron Homes.” It can be found at Amazon.com
To read more about Sears Homes, click here.
* * *
There are 3 Lustrons in Belleville, Il, just east of St. Louis, Missouri. 1 was recently for sale for about $65,000
My husband and I just purchased a gray Lustron Sears Home.
It was a foreclosure so we haven’t been able to really go inside and check it out.
From the outside it is in pretty good shape. Can’t wait to see this 1953 gem!
Lustron and Sears were two different companies. There’s a book called “Lustron” (simple title, but great read) which gives a comprehensive background on Lustron.
Oh, Lustron Homes are so cool. Hopefully the interior is not too bad.
There is lots of literature available on Lustron. Whenever Rose and I are out on the road we watch for Lustrons!
The original kitchen is missing from our Lustron home. Does anyone know of a Lustron kitchen cabinet set for sale?
Thanks for that clarification. You are so correct. Do you know of anyone that would have an original kitchen for sale?
This story contains errors.
There are not 2,500 remaining; that’s the total produced by Lustron, and the estimated number remaining is between 1,500 and 2,000.
The others were razed and replaced.
Columbus NEVER had an abundance of Lustrons; there were many cheaper entry-level homes available there when Lustron operated.
They were wildly popular, with a backlog of some 10,000 orders received when the company folded.
The federal government forced the company into bankruptcy when it called in its loan to it.
They are not “made of” the 2 x 2 panels; they are clad with them.
Strandlund has no “s” at the end of his name.
The Quantico homes were destroyed because they were deemed outmoded, and were replaced with large, luxury homes for military personnel.
They had been painted pink and other colors not original to the homes.
The “macho” residents and their color preferences were no consideration in replacing the homes.
I live in Kenosha Wisconsin and I know of at least 2 of these Lustron homes in this city.
My boyfriend was fairly certain these were sold through Sears and then we found this site to confirm it.
Should I take a few photos and send them to you?
Your boyfriend is wrong, wrong, WRONG!
The Lustron homes were NOT SOLD BY SEARS.
It just happens to be that I did a couple blogs on them.
I recommend you find this DVD, a documentary on Lustron, Lustron: The House America’s Been Waiting For and this book, The Lustron Home: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment.
Both are very good and will tell the Lustron story.
Definitely not Sears related.
Several errors need to be corrected.
Columbus does NOT have many Lustrons. There are a few of note, but many other locations have many more.
The three bedroom houses you mention are REALLY 02 models. That is the Elkins and Tulsa, OK houses shown. A Three Bedroom has NO porch cut out area.
Hello, I see you know a bit about these Lustron homes.
Can you tell me how they heat and cool as it seems there is little insulation?
I noticed a Lustron house last summer. I’ve been meaning to go back and take a picture.
Yesterday, on my way home from the grocery store I saw another one. On a street that I have driven down weekly, if not daily for years!
These two houses are only a mile or so apart, so I’m wondering if there are more in that neighborhood. I may try to drive some of the back streets and look for more (the two I’ve seen are at intersections with the primary through streets).
It feels a little wild. 2,500 Lustron homes, and I’ve seen two of them. 70,000 Sears homes and I’ve found one.
From 1948 Architectural Plans and Erection Manual for a Model 02.
The early Lustron Homes were equipped with ceiling mounted oil or gas heating units, located in the central utility, that suppled hot air to a six inch chamber above the ceiling, thus providing radiant panel heating throughout the house.
The walls featured one and one-half inches of fiberglass insulation, while the ceiling featured three to six inches of blown or poured fiberglass or mineral wool insulation.
There was no equipment for air conditioning. For more information see the book “The Lustron House” by Tom Fetters.
The radiant panel heat sounds so cozy.
I just requested the book from the library. Can’t wait to learn more.
There are still quite a few of these Lustron Homes in Lombard, Illinois as well.
Found one in Columbus, Indiana, too.
Here’s a listing that shows a Dayton, OH, Lustron being put together, along with ad photos.
Neat! From the pictures it looks like there is quite a bit of storage for such a small house too.
We would like to paint the roof on our Lustron home, but need advice on what type of paint we should use.
We’d like to stick with the same color, but we’re not even sure how to find that.
Thanks for any help.
Could you offer some advice and/or insights on what paint to use on our Lustron Home’s roof?
I have a Lustron home coming to the market July 13, 2018 in Cleveland Ohio. It is updated and located on 1/4th of an acre. I
If you would like pictures or attend a Open House please let me know!
The houses were offered in four colors, Desert Tan, Surf Blue, Maize Yellow and Dove Grey. There was never a pink or brown.
Ask Sherwin Williams or ask advice on the Lustron Facebook page
Hi Jenny, I lived my first 20 years in a Lustron and I assure you, it wasn’t cozy..lol. There is a current listing for one in Lombard, Il that is in remarkably good, original condition. I noticed that they’d cut conventional vents into some of the ceiling panels, which looking back, seems like a good idea. Here’s the listing: https://www.zillow.com/savedhomes/for_sale/4472740_zpid/1_pnd/54.495567,-75.014649,16.341225,-130.737305_rect/3_zm/1_rs/1_fr/?fbclid=IwAR1xMO0oUN0fa3puAntUV9AN6yxMtiCFGEopen3qno_Kd2fz74nIRCDqb4c
Thank you for that link, Gemma!
Thanks for sharing this house Jim. It seems like it would be a cool vacation rental, if it were only on the beach!
Can anyone help? I have been looking for someone who truly knows how to repair a Lustron roof in CT?? Thank you
Nancy, what do you mean by repair?
Most roofers don’t do repair work anymore. Too much trouble with customers and attorneys. With the busy home building market its tough to find roofers for ordinary houses so finding a roofer for a Lustron can’t be easy. Have you contacted any roofers that do metal work only?
If there is a leak resist the suggestions to pour tar in the seams.
This will provide only a temporary patch and it will make future repairs much more difficult.
If shingles need to be replaced look online for Lustron websites with discussion groups and maybe someone has parts listed for sale.
These Lustron roofs are 70 years old and in the near future a lot of them are going to need new roofs.
Thanks for answering this question, Dale.
I’ll send Nancy an email to make sure that she sees it!
I have inherited my grandmothers Lustron home in NC. It needs quite a bit of work since it has been sitting vacant in the country. I would like to consider renovating it and bringing it back to life. Any advice on what kind of paint for exterior and interior walls; updating the heating system & electrical system and any other renovation suggestions that would give me a heads up and make my life easier. We might need to replace some exterior panels as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I’m writing to ask if I can get replacement panels anywhere. I’ll be moving into a Lustron home, and a couple of panels are rusting. Other than that the house is in great shape and all original. TIA.
Through an old newspaper column, I was alerted to a Lustron house being built in a small community close to me, in the 1950s.
So today, I went looking for it and found it. It’s a mess. The house itself appears to be in good condition, but whoever lived there last left in a hurry.
The front door is missing and plywood is in its place.
I did take a peak, but only in the name of history!
My question is, where can I find a group or website of Lustron aficionados that I can ask for help and information?