Lustron prefab for sale Des Moines, Ia.

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Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The basic idea of these houses was sound, but it seems to me they missed out on two points.

First, while the system was new and "modern," the style of the houses was dowdy. Other houses of the era, such as the famous Anshen & Allen designs for Eichler, were immeasurably superior in design. The 24"-square panels didn't have anything to do with the nature of the design, which was a standard 30s-era type cottage, totally unrelated to the fenestration. The roof was steel made to resemble wood shingles rather than make even a slight effort to come up with something new and "steel-like." Overall, the design seems halfhearted.

Second, while the everlasting-ness of the porcelain panels in a selection of 4 pastel hues, inside and out, may have been regarded as a benefit to some, being unable to alter the house to fit the owner's taste probably turned a lot of potential buyers off, not to mention the difficulty of future expansion. So the cottages were most likely expected to be temporary housing, as they apparently ended up being.

It would be interesting to see if talented architects could use the technology to create something more serviceable and comely.

Reidy
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Post by Reidy »

San Francisco saw a similar development after the quake / fire of 1906. So-called "earthquake shacks" sprang up in response to the housing shortage. They were esthetically dreary but have acquired value as historic relics.

https://sf.curbed.com/2015/2/24/9988502 ... iny-houses

DRN
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Post by DRN »

Dowdy, maybe, but the intent was to propose a design that would appeal to the broadest cross section of home buyers in 1948-9. When starting a whole new industry requiring massive production infrastructure, one doesn't put out a product that only appeals to a niche buyer.
Anshen & Allen's Eichlers are not an apples to apples comparison with a Lustron...Lustrons were based on the most efficient use of a company's sheet steel in a 1000SF box-like structure containing living, dining, kitchen space and 2 beds and a bath; the A&A Eichlers were post and beam infill panel structures with a lot of hard to ship glazing. Further, their designs are what we modern architecture buffs like, and what a segment of the West Coast market liked, but Lustrons were not intended to be sold in their initial form west of the Rockies. The delivery trucks could not economically traverse the mountains pre-Interstate highway system, and Lustron hadn't the capital to set up a western outpost to transfer the house package from a rail car to a truck...this was before the world was changed by intermodal containers.

As to the expression of steel, the 24" flat panels were optimal for handling, mounting and addressing oil canning issues on the changeable surface temps of an exterior wall. The interior panels were larger in most rooms and ribbed to withstand furniture being pushed against them, and smaller smooth panels were used in the kitchen, utility and bath where temperature swings were common and more active cleaning was necessary. The roof panels were reminiscent of shingles, but the pieces were easily packed and shipped without bending and as noted earlier, the appearance was geared toward fulfilling most buyer's notion of what a house looks like.

Lustron had hired Carl Koch to design a subsequent series of modern modular houses reducing the amount of on-site pieces for assembly, (interestingly, they shared some visual cues of Koch's later Eichler-esque "Techbuilt" houses) but lack of cash flow killed the company before that developed or the 20,000 orders for the initial house types were filled.

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

There's a Lustron house around the corner from where I live - a funky pale "surf blue" & "maize yellow" one. Apparently, it belonged to the man who was the local Lustron distributor, who remained in the house until the 1990's. Reportedly, there were 10 in the city, but I've only seen this one.
The historian/author offers a thorough history of Lustron:

https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/GA-01-121-0073

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Two-tone, James ? Would that be a custom order ?

One is reminded of this---which turns out to have an Atlanta connection, as a kicker . . . !

https://www.autotrader.com/car-news/vol ... d-m-259745

S

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

S
I do not remember seeing any of those harlequin-ed VW Golfs. I kind of like them. I would prefer it if the green panels were replaced by white ones and they called it the "VW Mondrian".
Your article's story links the presence of the VW Harlequins with the 1996 Olympics. If that's the case, I worry about those particular shades of color. The concurrent color scheme for the Atlanta Olympics was plastered all over town on billboards and banners hanging from street lamps, to shirts & shoes worn by the thousands of volunteers (which still show up on Goodwill shelves). It was everywhere. The hues of those colors were all trendy -- tweaked away from primary colors to give a sort of muted, secondary vibe.
See them here: https://www.google.com/search?q=1996+ol ... 7txDjGfbjM:
Seen against that backdrop, I would think the VW Harlequin's bright hues would've been discordant. Perhaps that explains their lack of popularity.

Regarding our local Lustron, in the historian's text on the first link I sent he writes:
"Built as a model, the Knight residence featured the “surf blue� and “maize yellow� color scheme of standard to Lustron’s demonstration houses."
So, I guess the two-tone was pre-planned and readily available.

Funny thing about that specific house -- it's located on a major road called Northside Drive (our own Tom from Black Mountain would surely remember the road). I'd been up and down that road millions of times but had never noticed the tiny Lustron perched there. Five years ago when I moved into the Copeland House I discovered it was listed on the Society of Architectural Historians website page regarding Atlanta.
https://sah-archipedia.org/search?q=cit ... lume:GA-01
On the same list I noticed the Lustron house and its address on Northside Drive (right around the corner). I remember thinking, "That can't be right", having never noticed it in all those years. Next day I turned the corner, looked to the right, and low & behold -- there it was !

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Thank you. I like the Atlanta Olympics colors much more than the VW Harlequin ones, myself.

The phrase "standard to Lustron’s demonstration houses" seems to suggest that those were specials, rather than the production colors (if indeed different) ? Anyway, it's good to have all of that on record---which, like the VW story, is almost all news to me . . . !

S

peterm
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Location: Chicago, Il.---Oskaloosa, Ia.

Post by peterm »

https://www.ohiohistory.org/visit/exhib ... or-schemes

From the site:

“With Lustrons, the options were limited to the four exterior panel colors: surf blue, maize yellow, desert tan, and dove gray, trimmed in eggshell white and featuring dark grey roofing tiles. On the interior, a neutral light grey, blue, light yellow and pink were available.

From the 1950 fact sheet:

“ “A choice of several colors in carefully blended combinations is available for the exterior. Interiors are finished in rich neutral tones which blend with any furniture or decorating scheme and which never need painting. Lustron colors have been carefully designed with the help of Howard Ketchum, Inc., one of the nation’s foremost color experts .� �

Were other color combinations available?

Although there was some variation in the demonstration models, and in printed promotional materials once the factory began producing Lustrons in earnest, roof and trim colors were standardized for all the models. One dove gray Westchester, with eggshell trim and a green roof looked just like every other dove gray Westchester, with eggshell trim and a green roof.

A Color Scheme?

Just as automobile manufactures offered would-be owners an opportunity to customize their cars with colors, trim levels and accessories. The Lustron Corporation modeled much of their business model on the automobile industry. Accordingly, they offered new Lustron owners with opportunities to customize their Lustron by choosing a color, model and size. As production increased they hoped that existing owners could trade up for a larger house or a newer style, or presumably even a new color. Unfortunately, the Lustron Corporation went bankrupt before fully implementing its plans to roll out existing models much less, new models on at the levels they had anticipated. Had they succeeded perhaps, the Lustron aficionado could have been able to tell a ’50 model from a ’55 model by its color. Were there plans in the works so that owners could have customized their homes�with a band of another color or a bi-color exterior panel scheme?�

peterm
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Post by peterm »

I agree with Roderick’s assessment of the Lustron house. It’s fascinating to notice how innovative and forward looking the Airstream trailer was in its use of metal and prefabrication when contrasted with the frumpy Lustron.

Having said that, I still like them as vernacular, kitschy examples of American modern prefabrication, and I hope someone buys and cares for this one in Des Moines. It doesn’t need much to complete the original vision.

DRN
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Post by DRN »

It’s fascinating to notice how innovative and forward looking the Airstream trailer was in its use of metal and prefabrication when contrasted with the frumpy Lustron.
The Airstream is an interesting comparison...only until recently, on certain models/trim levels, the exterior of the Airstreams and their interiors have been two very different worlds. For much of their production history, Airstreams have been fitted with cabinetry and other details more appropriate to the most traditional or “frumpy� builder grade houses...the contrast between the sleek Deco or SpaceAge exterior, which so clearly expressed its monocoque construction, and the trailer’s interior, was stunning.
I’m not sure if this contrast was the result of the brand’s roots as a product designed for practicality based on aircraft construction methods with little attention given to “style�, or if a conscious effort was made to have the interiors appeal to the average customer’s taste.

SDR
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Post by SDR »

A closer comparison might be to the Levittown example ?

https://www.smartcitiesdive.com/ex/sust ... own/79661/

S

Roderick Grant
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Post by Roderick Grant »

The Levittown cookie was just a tad higher grade than Lustron.
Perhaps it was the imposition of the grid on Lustron that clashed with the seeming arbitrariness of its plebeian design.

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

here's a link to a story about another surf blue/maize yellow two tone model in the deep south. In fact, it doesn't get much deeper than Natchez, Mississippi which was the epicenter of cotton plantation wealth up until 1865. This article reports at the high water mark there had been at least 4 Lustrons in sleepy little Natchez.
https://misspreservation.com/2010/06/09 ... n-jackson/

Of interest is this statement made in the article:
"Lustron parts are invaluable and always in demand from other Lustron owners."
So it's like the market for auto parts for antique cars ...

JChoate
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Post by JChoate »

...and there's this, which makes perfect sense:
https://ideas.lego.com/projects/e897987 ... 4b5cd83e41

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Heh-heh. Reductio ad . . . something---I never took Latin.


I like the little jazzy fillip on both houses (Lustron and Levitt): in each case a deviation from the vertical,
in a self-consciously "modren" vein . . . or is that "modernistic" ?


Image


Image


Don't tell me that Lustron diagonal serves as a downspout !

S

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