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Want a Lustron? The all-steel post-World War II houses that are home to Marines at Quantico are to be given away to those willing to dismantle and move them
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
T HEY WERE BILLED as the solu-tion to the nation’s post-World War II housing shortage. They were to be the Model Ts of the housing industry, rolling off assembly lines and onto housing lots across America.
But the all-steel homes called Lustrons didn’t turn out to be as popular, or as efficient to produce, as their originators had envisioned. Some 2,500 were manufactured by 1950, and of the 2,000 believed to be left standing, the largest group—about 60 of them—is at Quantico Marine Corps Base.
If you would like to have one, it could be yours for free if you’re willing to dismantle it and haul it away. You have to apply by April 12 to be eligible for one of the first group of 23 Lustrons. They will be awarded in May.
Lustron homes were the brainchild of entrepreneur Carl G. Strandlund, who pitched his idea to Wilson Wyatt, appointed National Housing Expeditor under President Harry Truman.
Soon, a former aircraft factory in Ohio was producing them. Except for the floors and windows, they were built entirely of steel—the interior and exterior walls, the ceilings and the roof.
The idea wasn’t exactly new, according to the Web site lustronsatquantico .com. Porcelain-enameled steel panels were already being used for gas stations and stores by the mid-1940s. It was Strandlund’s vision that homes could be built in the same fashion.
After all, the nation had been producing huge amounts of steel during the war for Jeeps, tanks, planes and munitions. But what of that industry in the postwar era? Detroit would soon make use of much of that steel production capacity as Americans began their love affair with the automobile. Certainly some of that steel could be used for mass-produced, prefabricated housing.
Today, 40 years later, Quantico’s Lustrons are still used for military housing. One resident is Marine Gunnery Sgt. Michael Stephens. He’s a native of Pittsburgh, a city so linked to the steel industry that it named its football team the Steelers.
“I like my steel house,” said Stephens, a fan of his hometown champions. “If I had my way I would just stay here.”