Lustron Steel Homes Knock on Wood
While telling Cameron history, one must mention some of the beautiful old homes that adorn our streets. Some of the old structures are known for their architecture and others for the interesting residents they’ve had over the years.
Homes like the Darby House on South Walnut, the Hale house (Ted Sanders) on South Chestnut and the Musser Mansion at 4th and Chestnut are known for a combination of great looks and the well known owners that have occupied them. Thanks to the dedication of the current owners, they maintain their appeal and continue to be a source of pride to the community.
Among the large group of noticeable historic homes are a couple of simple homes that might seem unremarkable at first. If you drive by, you may not notice anything different about them at all. They fit well into their surroundings and don’t draw a lot of attention. Their story however, is as interesting as any others in town. Here’s a little history about them.
At the end of World War II, the country had a housing shortage. Ideas like prefabricated or mail order wooden framed homes had been around for a while and presented some remedy to the shortage, but a man named Carl Strandlund took the idea in a different direction.
Carl developed an all enameled steel home that could be delivered in pieces by truck and assembled like a giant “Erector Set” on site. He called them “Lustron Homes”. The outside walls, inside walls and roof were all steel. The windows and door jams were steel. The cabinets, built in dressers, closets and appliances were all steel. There’s no wood framing at all. The enameled steel construction meant very little maintenance, no need to ever paint, no fear of wood rotting or termite damage and for cleaning, simple soap and water did the trick.
Lustron offered two and three bedroom homes in four colors and 3 different styles from 1947 until 1950. About 2500 of the homes were produced of which about 2000 remain in 36 different states. Two of them were built, or should I say assembled in Cameron, by Charles Groom in 1949. They immediately drew the attention of everyone in the area. According to the Cameron Sun Newspaper, over 4000 people visited the first Lustron home in the weeks after it was built.
Eventually, features that made them attractive, like no need to ever paint or remodel, meant also that they couldn’t be painted or remodeled if someone wanted to. Although very popular at the time, economic realities limited the company and soon it was gone.
Today, Lustron homes still draw attention by folks familiar with their history. Fan clubs and enthusiasts keep track of every home. Although not as noticeable as other historic homes in Cameron, the Lustron homes still have a beloved place in Cameron history. With luck, future Cameron residents will be able to see and learn about Lustron Steel Homes, “Knock on Wood”.
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