Mississippi Unbuilt: Biloxi Lusting for Lustrons

KEESLER TO SPEND $1,000,000 ON 67 NEW HOUSING UNITS

Special to the Times Picayune

Biloxi, Miss., May 29– Approximately $1 million will be spent on construction of 67 three-bedroom units at Keesler Air Force Base, it was announced by the public information office.

Occupants of sections of Keesler Kottages and Trailer Park areas on the field have been notified to vacate their properties to make room for the contemplated construction.  Demolition work already has started in parts of the area.

The new units will be of the single-dwelling lustron prefabricated type.  Made of steel, they will contain certain built-in furniture including dish-washer, washing machine, and built-in cabinets.  The area was established two years ago to relieve local housing shortages and rent was furnished free to airmen.

-Times Picayune May 30, 1949

Lustron House, Westchester Model. Jackson, Mississippi

If you’re not familiar with Lustron Houses, we’ve discussed these metal clad curios and the two(?) surviving Mississippi Lustron houses in the early days of MissPres here and here.

Not exactly sure where this Keesler housing development was planned to be located.  Possibly by the current Keesler Famcamp between Hiller Park and Jim Money Road?  Had these 67 structures been built it would have been the largest assembly of Lustron houses ever built, slightly edging out the 60 Lustron houses that were built at the Marine base at Quantico, VA.  I was not able to find any other articles indicating whether or not this project was carried out.  The phrase “contemplated construction” leads me to believe that it’s highly unlikely any Lustron houses were constructed for Keesler housing.  Lustron went bankrupt and stopped production in 1950 owing $37,000,000.00 (roughly $360,000,000.00 in 2015) to the federal government.

Lustron Clarksdale

Lustron House, Westchester Model. Clarksdale, Mississippi

Here’s my estimated project break down based on the cool million price tag; $670,000 for the Lustrons themselves (costing roughly $10,000 apiece) and the remaining $330,000 for assembling the buildings, infrastructure and civil design.  Since the Lustron Corporation owed so much money to the feds the idea was proposed as part of the bankruptcy that homes would be suppled to the armed forces.  None of the branches were interested, otherwise we might have seen these 67 Lustron Houses built in Biloxi. Watching the termites swarm the past several weeks, maybe a metal house makes good sense in Mississippi?

If you lived in off base housing at Keesler and have a story you’d like to share, please leave a comment below.

Many Thanks to Keli at the Tulane SEAA for sharing this article.



Categories: Architectural Research, Biloxi, Building Types, Historic Preservation, Military, Modernism

Tags: , ,

12 replies

  1. The evidence indicates you are correct that the units were never constructed. In February 1950, foreclosure began on the Lustron corporation for default of government loans. Carl G. Strandlund, founder of Lustron, accused the RFC director of “working with financial wolves” that caused the ruination of the housing plant “in efforts to enrich themselves.” He accused them of trying to take over control of the plant in Columbus, Ohio. In April 1950, “pre-fabricated type [houses] made of waterproof plywood” were completed at Keesler. They were completed by Green Lumber Company of Laurel, and were white, with red, blue, grey, or green trim and roofs. They were “90% demountable” which meant they could be disassembled and moved. By 1951, additional units had been proposed and constructed under the Wherry Housing bill. Apparently, housing for Keesler was a major issue during the years 1949-1951. (Sources Biloxi Daily Herald, Feb. 20 1950, April 6, 1950, January 16, 1951, and March 1, 1951.)

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    • Some of the Wherry Housing that was constructed during this time was in my neighborhood, Oak Park. They were all being vacated with plans for demolition before Katrin. This was due to being “sub standard” which seems ironic as many of our civilian homes were built during the same period. For example my home was built in 1952. The right side of my street was civilian and the left side was Wherry. As Keesler had potable water after the storm, our whole neighborhood took showers in the “sub standard” homes as ours were severly damaged being on or next to Back Bay.

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    • I’ve heard the wait list for on-base housing was years long. How cool are plywood houses? It is wishful thinking that they were Eames-esque, but if I recall any Keesler base housing it was all low style ranch. Did it say what the roofs were constructed of? Sounds like we will have to have a future post about the Green Lumber Co. of Laurel.

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      • They covered 4 blocks in the northeast area of the base, were 1100 sq. feet, identical 3 bedroom, living-dining room combination, kitchen, bath, and utility room. 25 feet deep and 48 feet wide. Asphalt tile flooring and asphalt shingle roofs, apparently in colors that matched the painted trim.

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  2. Westchester rather than Winchester, right?

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  3. If I see any other Keesler-related stories, I will send them your way.. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

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