As the men and women who served in the armed forces and military hospitals came home from World War II, America faced a housing shortage. At the same time, America had a surplus of steel because it was no longer needed for the war effort. In 1947, behind the vision of Carl Strandlund, and with the help of tax dollars, the Lustron Corporation was formed in Columbus, Ohio with the plan to use this steel to mass produce prefabricated homes that would be affordable for every American family.
Between 1949 and 1950, 2,498 steel homes were produced. Then, a combination of changing market factors and political pressures put the Lustron Corporation out of business. Today, many of these homes remain as a unique time capsule into 1950’s America.
A Lustron home is built completely out of steel. The walls, ceiling, cabinets, and doors are all steel. The exterior walls and roof are made of ceramic-coated steel tiles. These are the same tiles used to build the first White Castle restaurants. Liberty Frozen Custard in Tangletown was converted from an old Mobile gas station that is also made of the steel tiles.
All the plumbing, heating and electrical were built into each home, which was then placed on a concrete slab. Other than a few mechanical updates, and maybe new windows, the homes continue to function mostly unchanged – even in Minnesota. Several Lustron homes remain in Minneapolis, including a handful in the Nokomis area.