Lustron House in Jackson

Just around the corner from the classically proportioned J.R. Flint house designed by A. Hays Town in south Jackson is a house that makes no bones about its modernity. It’s a Lustron House, one of only two or three that I know of still in the state.

For those unfamiliar with Lustron houses, they are pre-fabricated, steel and procelain-enameled houses (yes, all steel, including cabinets, interior walls, etc.) that were part of the post-WWII experimentation with building affordable and mass-produced homes to satisfy the huge pent-up demand for housing.

As Lustron Preservation (which I believe is associated with the National Trust) tells it:

The Lustron House was an innovative solution to the post-WWII housing crisis. Many thought the porcelain enamel clad wonder would be the General Motors of the housing industry. Production began in 1948, but by 1950 production problems and a corruption scandal brought it to a halt. The factory was closed and the equipment sold or scrapped. All in all, only about 2,680 of these unique homes were built. Sadly, it is estimated that only 1,500 of these unique homes survive today. Each year, dozens more are lost to demolition, neglect, and unsympathetic changes and alterations.

On a side note, the Lustron factory was in Cicero, Illinois, the hometown of my mother. So you know they were high-quality.

It's shiny because its porcelain-clad!

From clicking around on the Lustron Preservation site, it looks to me like this house is the Westchester model, which was the most popular and was based on the prototype Esquire model. It’s the same model (and same “surf blue” color) as a Lustron in New Orleans featured on Regional Modernism a couple of years ago because it was on the city’s demolition list. Wonder what ever happened to that house?

Speaking of demolition, we used to have at least three other Lustrons in Mississippi, one in Natchez and two right around the block from this one in Jackson. The Natchez Lustron was damaged, as I recall, in the 1998 tornado/straight-line winds and the owners chose to tear it down, even though Lustron parts are invaluable and always in demand from other Lustron owners. As for the Jackson Lustrons, those two on Terry Road sat vacant for many years until maybe 2006, when I heard someone from Ocean Springs was buying them to dismantle and reinstall down on the Coast. They are gone now (an exterior photo of one of them can be found on the Lustron Preservation site with an incorrect McDowell Road address. I swear I took some pictures, but I can’t put my hands on them right now–maybe that was back in the film days), and I assume they’re somewhere in Ocean Springs, but I don’t know for sure.

The only other Lustron I know of in the state, and I think it’s still standing because I haven’t heard otherwise, is up in Clarksdale on School Street.

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Categories: Architectural Research, Clarksdale, Jackson, Natchez, Ocean Springs, Recent Past

7 replies

  1. Thanks for this fascinating information!

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  2. As usual, you sent me on a hunting expedition. There is an interesting photo pool on http://www.flickr.com/groups/lustron/pool, and the selections by Joey Harrison include some vintage 1949 photos of the house being constructed and original interiors, as well as current interior shots. For serious Lustron research, there is also a book by Thomas T. Fetters, The Lustron Home: The History of a Postwar Prefabicated Housing Experiment.

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  3. Thanks for tracking down that Flickr group–those pictures of the construction are very interesting (I took the liberty of adding the link to Joey Harrison’s set in your comment above).

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  4. The three in Jackson, and the ones in Natchez and Clarksdale may have been the only Lustron’s ever built in Mississippi according to this 1949 letter from Lustron’s President Carl Strandlund.

    http://www.lustronpreservation.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/lustron-pdf-factsheet.pdf

    The Lustron factory was located in Columbus Ohio. Cicero, Illinois is actually the site of Lustron’s parent company Chicago Vitreous Enamel Corporation.

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  5. I remember the one on McDowell Road. It was/is on the corner of McDowell and Terry….. I have no clue of its condition. I haven’t chosen to step a single inch back into Jackson, since fleeing to Rankin county 15 years ago!

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  6. If anyone is curious, the Lustron House in New Orleans that you mentioned was bought and renovated. It is no longer under threat of demolition.

    Liked by 1 person

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