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Demise of another Lustron house

Over the weekend, I heard the trucks and equipment of DeCarlo Demolition tearing down a historic Lustron house on Tonawanda Drive just west of the Salisbury House. I should have tied myself to the house as the bulldozers approached! The Lustron is an endangered species of early sustainable design. In fact, I would say it is much more sustainable than most homes made today.

Lustron was arguably a very green solution to home building for returning GI’s after WWII. Lustron homes were manufactured by a company in Chicago from 1948-1950 before going bankrupt. The Lustron Preservation says 2,680 homes were sold for about $10,000 each and after 60 years about 1,500 homes still exist. Of the remaining stock there are 152 Lustron homes in Iowa and many Lustron homes in Des Moines less the one on Tonawanda Drive. Look for one on Chamberlain near Roosevelt High School.

What made the homes sustainable?  Porcelain steel panels for the roof, exterior, and interior walls. And in eight timeless exterior colors, including pink! It is the same material which makes up the interior of most ovens or cookware. No maintenance for 60 years is incredible. No painting of the interior so no off gassing or ongoing cost to repaint. The ceilings were metal perforated panels for even heat and no ductwork. Kitchen cabinets made of metal so you could wash them off easily.

What was their demise? Lustron Preservation says to some degree it was building inspectors and construction unions wary of new technology. Lustron homes were even banned in the very city of the manufacturer. 

Hopefully the green movement does not encounter the same issues today!

-Rob Smith


What a shame, another piece of history gone for good!

You are right John. Iowa has many of these homes and hopefully awareness can be increased.

This is an inspiring article about the demolished Lustron. Just a couple of clarifications: The company was located in Columbus, Ohio in a former Curtis-Wright Aviation plant, and many Lustrons were built in and around the city. Also, the ceiling panels are not perforated; they’re solid-surfaced steel panels that warm to radiate heat into the living area.

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