Lustron Lust

There’s something about the row of shiny metallic houses on the 5000 block of Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis that grabs me. I was driving by them yesterday and the afternoon sun bounced off one of them so brightly that I pulled the car over and shot a few photos.

Lustron house at 5027 Nicollet in Minneapolis (photo by Steve Date)

I think I like them because they cry out mid-20th century style. Even though I never lived in one or even remember seeing one of these pre-fab gems when I was a kid, they evoke familiar feelings from my childhood.

The American dream - no more painting, just put on your sunglasses and a nice dress and spray it off!

In a way, it’s the quintessential baby-boom house. Originally designed in 1947 and marketed to GIs returning from WWII, there were about 2,700 of these enameled steel beauties constructed nationwide between 1948 and 1950. It was hoped that this new low maintenance exterior — invented by Carl Strandlund of Chicago — would appeal to the modern, post-war family.

5021 Nicollet (photo by Steve Date)

There’s a great blog entry by Nokohaha that provides a lot of details about materials, different models, construction methods, etc. The Nokohaha author says there are 18 Lustrons in Minnesota, including 9 in south Minneapolis.

According to the Lustron Preservation Organization website, there are now only about 1,500 of these wonderfully odd little creatures left today. I’m glad somebody is trying to preserve them and I hope the few we have here in Minneapolis will continue to be cared for.

The Lustron houses on Nicollet Avenue are just a few blocks from where I live. I’ve always thought they were cool, and I knew a little about them, but hadn’t ever taken the time to learn more until one of them flashed me on Friday afternoon and I decided to take a picture. So even if this blog is entirely self-serving (which it is), it’s still worth doing, because it gives me reason to stop, look and learn about stuff that’s right under my nose.

Now if I can just get invited into one of them to look around . . . .

Now just about old enough to collect Social Security, this Lustron house looks as good as the day it was built. (photo by Steve Date)

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