519 West Indiana Avenue

The Lustron House

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Supporting the preservation and appreciation of Perrysburg's historic architectural heritage

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The Lustron House:

 

This house at 519 West Indiana has a particular advantage not enjoyed by virtually any other. It will never have termites. That’s because it’s an all-steel Lustron house—one of only about 25 in the entire Toledo area.

Other pre-fabricated houses included a Sears, Roebuck house at 220 West Indiana (another is said to be at 721 West Boundary.)

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519 West Indiana Avenue

In addition, we are told of at least one Montgomery Ward version in town and several other prefabricated houses, including one at 808 Walnut, two on Second Street and several on Seventh.These, along with this Lustron house, have more to do with type of construction than architectural significance, but they are part of our historic heritage that evolved during a period following 1940. They are all prefabricated and, in some cases, that included packaged plumbing, heating and kitchen units

Urgency was the motivation behind this movement. Some 10 million World War II servicemen came home needing inexpensive family housing, and this was one of the answers to the problem.

The 31' x 35’ rectangular house pictured here, built in 1949 or possibly 1950 (records aren’t clear), is truly all metal. The exterior walls are of 24”square porcelain enameled panels attached to the house’s metal frame, the interior walls resemble normal wood paneling, the green-colored roof resembles shingles, the ceiling and even the closet and cabinet doors are metal. Color, baked into the enamel, is dove gray outside and the original interior was a maize yellow, but is now an off-white.

Radiant heat is circulated through the space between the walls and picture windows provide plenty of light. 

Popular features of the original Lustron home were a dishwasher that converted into a clothes washer, and of course the outside and inside walls could be wiped clean with a damp cloth (not to mention they could be waxed like a car). It never had to be repainted, and interior walls could be rearranged or a room added like an Erector set toy.

Homeowners even got a thick book showing how every part of the house was bolted together and what replacement or additional parts could be ordered.

Before metal houses were developed, a Chicago-based company had been producing easy-to-clean porcelain- enameled steel panels for gas stations and restaurants. The federal government, still controlling the use of steel, eagerly approved and helped finance their idea of mass produced steel panel houses and two Chicago architects provided the design-about 1,000 square feet in a five- room one-story floor plan. There were eventually three sizes offered, ranging in price from $7,000 to $12,000. An almost new aircraft plant in Columbus, leased from the government, was converted into a factory.

Unfortunately, the company could not meet payments on its government loan and production commitments, and it went out of business in 1950 after only two years, having produced only 2,498 homes. Judging from the one here, these few will still be existing in good condition many generations from now.  

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