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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Experience Columbus. The opinions and text are all mine.
Step into the 1950s as you tour a Lustron home in Columbus, Ohio. Created by the Lustron Corporation these mid-century homes were a precursor to modern-day pre-fab homes.
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There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Columbus, as I’ve written about in, A Weekend Exploring the Arts. My husband and I had an amazing time visiting this bustling and vibrant city during a recent weekend getaway. From the delicious food in German Village and North Market to the street art and Shakespeare in the park, we found plenty to keep us busy.
We always make it a point to tour historic homes and properties when we travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a farmhouse, an antebellum plantation or a mansion built during the Gilded Age; if it’s open to the public we’ll take a peek inside. I’d like to think our fascination is due to our love of history, but to be honest, I’m pretty sure we’re simply nosy.
While my husband enjoys the architecture of the buildings and always notices the decorative doors, windows, and ornate trim, I tend to enjoy the home furnishings which provide a glimpse at how the inhabitants once lived. During our visit to Columbus, we discovered the Ohio History Center has a 1950s exhibit complete with a Lustron home.
If you’re visiting Columbus with kids don’t miss 10 Things to do in Columbus with Kids that won’t Break the Bank.
What is a Lustron Home?
The Lustron Corporation created the pre-fabricated, porcelain enamel, steel houses in Columbus at what was used as an airplane manufacturing facility to make airplanes during WWII. After the war, the returning GIs needed homes to live in and the Lustron house was born. Touted as the “homes of the future”, they offered maintenance-free exteriors, easy to clean interior surfaces, plenty of built-in storage and pocket doors that were available in four color choices. All this was available at the low starting price of $4,190!
The homes, which were erected on-site, weigh approximately 11 tons and were constructed with dozens of metal panels, hundreds of steel beams and thousands of bolts. Each home took two weeks, or the equivalent of 400 man-hours to erect.
Due to politics and difficulty in building the units, the Lustron era was short-lived. What started as an optimistic idea to create affordable housing during the housing boom in 1948 ended in bankruptcy for the company by 1950.
Step Inside the Past and Tour a Lustron Home in Columbus
If you’ve ever wanted to see a Lustron house interior, here is your chance. The Dove Gray West Chester Deluxe Lustron home on exhibit at the Ohio History Connection is open to visitors. And when I say open, I mean you can step inside, sit on the couch, look in the closets and browse the cabinets. This 1,085 square foot, the two-bedroom home was one of nearly 2,500 built by the Lustron Corporation.
As I stepped from the covered porch into the living room, I was hit with a heavy wave of nostalgia. As I glanced around the room, my eyes landed on items that were found in my grandparent’s home when I was a young girl. From the books on the shelves to the vacuum cleaner to the Stratego game to the vintage mixer and color by numbers painting hanging in the kitchen, I was amazed by the attention to detail.
When you’ve finished touring the home, you’re welcome to learn more about the era through the interactive 1950s exhibit.
The Future of the Lustron Home
Today, these homes are disappearing from the American landscape. Though the retro style is making a comeback, these homes are declining in value. The world’s largest collection of Lustron houses was located at Quantico Marine Corps base in Virginia until 2007. Sadly, of 60 homes, only two survived demolition. This is not uncommon as many of the homes are now worth less than the land they sit on, though that is beginning to change as the homes are recognized for their historical value and significance.
The home on display at the Ohio History Museum was saved from demolition by Arlington County in Virginia. Each piece on the house was numbered and it was carefully dismantled from the inside out and reverse of how it was built. It was then rebuilt and placed on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City before coming to Ohio.
Though not open for tours, several other Lustron homes can be seen in Columbus at the following addresses: 272 E. Weisheimer, 27 Kanawha, 214 Arden and 185 Arden. Keep in mind that these are private residences so you won’t see a Lustron home’s interior but you can take a quick peek as you drive past. If you’re curious about finding more Lustron home locations check out this Lustron registry by state.
If you’d like to learn more about the Lustron homes check out these resources:
If you’re not able to visit the Lustron home on exhibit at the Ohio History Connection this short video is the next best thing. It’s not a full-blown Lustron homes documentary but it will allow you to learn a bit about the post-war homes built in Ohio’s capital city.
The Ohio History Connection
Address: 800 E. 17th Ave, Columbus, OH 43211
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Closed Monday and Tuesday
Other historic properties in Columbus and the area include:
Kelton House and Gardens
This beautiful example of Greek Revival and Italianate-style mansion is located in the historic Town Street Historic District amid beautiful homes and a short walk from the Topiary Park. Self-guided tours are offered during the week with a hand-held audio device. Guided tours are offered by a costumed docent on Sunday afternoons. Learn about life in early Columbus in this home that has ties to the Underground Railroad.
Address: 586 E Town St, Columbus, OH 43215
Hours: Monday – Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker Boyhood Home Replica
Visit Motts Military Museum to view the replica of Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s boyhood home. The interior of the home has been furnished as it was when Captain Eddie lived there. This WWI aviator became a flying ace with 26 aerial victories and was the recipient of the Medal of Honor for his service in France when he shot down two enemy planes against extreme odds.
Address: 5075 S Hamilton Rd, Groveport, OH 43125
Hours: Tuesday- Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. | Closed Monday
Plan your Visit to Columbus
From Red, White and Boom to the Ohio State Fair to the Food Truck Festival, 2022 promises to be a busy year for this booming Midwest city. View upcoming events and festivals on the events page of the Experience Columbus website. You’ll also find tools to help you plan your visit to Columbus, from city guides to restaurant recommendations to hotel packages.
Have you visited Ohio and toured the Lustron home? If so, share your experience below.