Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lustron House: Solution to post WWII housing comes to Fort Lauderdale

A California Lustron house 

For more Florida history visit my other blog, Janesbits.blogspot.com 



By Jane Feehan

A housing shortage affected the nation—and South Florida—after World War II. Among the reasons was pent up demand and a dearth of building materials (see my post at http://bit.ly/17FH9wa ).

Carl  G. Strandlund, then 48,  set out to remedy the problem with his idea for a prefabricated house. He launched Lustron Corporation in 1947 with $1,000 jointly invested with his wife, some other private capital and a loan of about $37.5 million from the federal government. It was a controversial loan because of its risk, one that had many detractors in Washington, but the housing need, as defined by President Harry S. Truman, was critical. Strandlund, an engineer, put up his patent for his prefab house as collateral.

Strandlund’s plan was to build 150 a day or a total of 17,500 houses in a plant in Columbus, Ohio with thousands of employees. Lustron Corp. built about 2,500 units, which were delivered as kits. Walls, ceilings and roofs were made of porcelain-enameled steel. Plumbing fixtures were constructed of enamel. The automotive and aircraft industries provided the templates for wiring and lighting. The houses were low maintenance, simple structures of one or two bedrooms but they had low curb appeal.

Lustron Corporation declared bankruptcy in February, 1950. 

There were production delays and lack of a distribution strategy. Also, little thought went into community or site planning. But a few were sent to Florida, with the largest number to Sarasota. Records indicate there was one located at 110 Hendricks Isle in Fort Lauderdale. One remains in this city, the Alfred and Olive Thorpe Lustron House, at 1001 NE 2nd Street (see Broward link below for photo). It was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. A Lustron house in Boca Raton is recorded as demolished. One may still exist on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami and another is listed as being on 59th Street near the Miami International Airport.

The largest assembly (60) of Lustron houses, was at the U.S. Marine military base in Quantico, VA. Information and history about the low-maintenance units is still being researched and compiled by the Lustron Preservation Organization (www.lustronpreservation.org). Some estimate that 2,000 still exist, a testimony to their structural integrity. Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

Sources:

* Fetters, Thomas A. Lustron Home: The History of a Postwar Prefabricated Housing Experiment. McFarland and    Company. Jefferson, NC: 2002
*Lodi News-Sentinel, March 26, 1948
*Miami News, Jan. 13, 1951
* Wikipedia

















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