CLARKS GREEN — John and Lynne Earley purchased a home at 116 Glenburn Road in the borough as a rental property in August 2004. They live in an adjoining property.
“We bought it for the location near our house,” John said. “We always knew it was an unusual house.”
Although the small one-story structure is considerably smaller than other homes on the block and, at first glance, its exterior blue steel panels look like over-sized contemporary ceramic bathroom floor tiles, it’s a one-of-a-kind relic that “architecturally speaking, is fun and largely maintenance-free,” noted John. “And it reflects what was going on mid-20th century.”
The Earleys’ home is one of approximately 2,500 Lustron homes built beginning in 1949. “The prior owners of our house told us it is a Lustron home,” John said. After purchasing the property, the local arm chair historian delved into its history at a time when “the Internet was coming of age and all of this obscure information about the house was available.” He also found additional information in books available at the time.
Freelance writer Mary Beth Klatt interviewed author and Lustron aficionado Tom Fetters for an article entitled “Lustron Homes: Magnetic Appeal” that appeared in REALTORMag, a magazine for the National Association of Realtors, in October 2008.
According to the article, Carl Standlund, an engineer from Chicago, was the brainchild of Lustron homes. The engineer recevied a loan from the federal government in the late 1940s to “to mass produce all-steel, enamel-clad houses,” Klatt wrote. The plan was backed by the government, as Standlund was able to secure additional loans due to interest in aiding U.S. soldiers coming home from war.
Klatt also described how the “Lustron Co. was in trouble from the beginning,” as union workers feared becoming obsolete because the homes were factory-made, and zoning boards in which homes were planted did not approve of their “unusual features.”
Klatt wrote, “The company produced more than 2,500 Lustrons before Reconstruction Finance Corp foreclosed in 1950. Two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,000-square foot models were the first Lustrons off the assembly line, priced between $10,000 and $12,000. The federal government ordered them in the biggest numbers for use on military bases.”
John Earley surmised that, while “building the homes seemed like a good idea in 1948, I think carpenter unions were not happy with the idea because it cut them out of the business. I think it also had something to do with the steel shortages associated with the Korean War.”
Lustron homes were factory-built, made completely of metal from their roof tiles to their interior walls and were marketed as low-maintenance — ads stated the home could keep residents safe from fires, rodents and even lightning.
The Earleys own the Lustron Westchester Deluxe two-bedroom model and, while the couple doesn’t know the exact date the home was built, John said, “It was probably 1949 or 1950.” A certificate of authenticity displaying “Model 2 House Number 974” is affixed to a wall near the rear entrance. There are three other Lustron Homes located in South Abington Township.
Misty Duchnik currently lives in a Lustron home on Layton Road. She purchased her Lustron in June 2013 and likes the open floor plan which offers a lot of room for a smaller-sized home with two large bedrooms and high ceilings.
“It’s a very solid and sturdy home,” Duchnik said. “The built-in wall units are surprisingly very modern-looking and a great addition for decorating, without taking up space by having to use additional furniture for displaying pictures and decor.”
Previous owners remodeled some of her home’s features but Duchnik said she will try her best to maintain its original features as much as possible to preserve the history of the home.
Clarks Green residents John and Lynne Earley are shown in the entrance way to their Lustron Home.
The garage located on Misty Duchnik’s property is also a Lustron product and was built with the original house.