Tri States Public Radio Staff
Thu July 30, 2009
Unique Piece of Local History in Jeopardy
Macomb, IL – America faced a housing shortage in the years right after World War II. In order to deal with the demand, some prefabricated homes were built out of steel. Five of those homes still exist in Macomb, but a local history buff fears one might soon be lost.
It's easy to drive by the home in question without noticing it. Trees and shrubbery hide the front of the house at 1707 West Jackson Street.
Heather Munro says that's a shame because this is a Lustron house. Fewer than 3,000 were built in America from 1948 to 1950.
"What's so distinctive about Lustron houses is that they are completely made of metal," says Munro. "The exterior is porcelain-clad enamel. Kind of like an old-fashioned bathtub or old stove or appliance."
Metal also dominates the interior of Lustron houses. The built-in metal cabinets and closets have doors that slide rather than swing open. Munro says the houses are as efficient as a Swiss army knife.
This house will be up for public auction on September 1. "I'm worried that because this little house is kind of tucked away, someone might purchase it and then just tear it down and it would be lost forever," says Munro.
Munro says Lustron homes are distinctive. She says all the pieces would be shipped to a site via truck. They would be arranged in exact assembly order. The frame would then be erected and the pieces would then be clicked into place.
Munro also believes they tell the story of what it was like in America in the late 1940s as soldiers returned from World War II and needed homes.
"I think it really illustrates open-mindedness (along with) grit and determination by people who needed some place to live," says Munro. "Housing was in such short supply here in Macomb that people were having to live in all kinds of alternative situations and this tells that story."
Munro would like to write a happy ending to this story but admits she cannot afford to buy the home. "I already talked to my husband about it. Unfortunately we're not in a situation (where we can afford it)," says Munro.
She hopes someone else with a love and appreciation for Lustron homes will make the winning bid at the auction and preserve this unique piece of local history.