They say in order to truly observe something, you must use as many of your senses as possible. When entering the full-size Lustron home inside of the Ohio History Center, I felt like Marty McFly reemerging in the 1955 version of Hill Valley. I listened to the vintage TV set barking in the living room and ran my fingers along the smooth steel walls, where pictures were hung with magnets (not nails). I opened cupboards and sat down at the dinner table. I held a brush from the master bedroom vanity table and played with toys in the children’s room. Other than the iPhone in my pocket, there were no indicators of 2013. Ten dollars (nine for AAA members) really isn’t much to pay for a chance to go back in time.
During the post-World War II housing boom, the Columbus-based Lustron Corporation was expected to be the world’s biggest churner outer of homes-in-a-box. The million-square-foot production plant was located on East 5th Avenue near the airport. With six miles of conveyor belts, it used more electricity than the whole city. Before Lustron, the site manufactured World War II fighter planes for the Navy. Now it’s a shipping hub for DSW.
More than 20,000 orders for Lustron homes were placed, but only 2,500 were built before the company declared bankruptcy in 1950. The 2002 documentary film Lustron: The House America’s Been Waiting For explores Lustron’s passionate but brief dance with success. It’s estimated that 1,500 Lustron homes still survive in the United States, 200 of which are in Ohio.
The Ohio History Center will host 1950’s Family Weekends with special hands-on activities and programs related to the exhibit on September 28-29, October 26-27, November 23-24, and December 28-29. Get your flux capacitors ready.