Rare, historic steel ‘house-in-a-can’ up for grabs in Dayton area

Credit: Cathy Mong

Credit: Cathy Mong

"The House America Has Been Waiting For" is on the market in one Dayton-area community.

Mike Cox and his brothers are selling their late mother's maize yellow Lustron home in Germantown with the help of local Realtor Annette Sand of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Professional Realty.

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"She really did enjoy it," Cox said of the house his mother Jane Cox  owned for about 15 years. "She liked the house. She liked the fact that it was unique and different. She liked the neighborhood."

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The 1,021-square-foot, two-bedroom prefabricated ranch house made with porcelain-enameled steel panels is located at 219 S. Cherry St. and was built in 1950.

The asking price is $102,000.

Credit: Annette Sand

Credit: Annette Sand

Sand plans to have an open house from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, April 14, at the house.

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"The so called 'house-in-a-can' is among only about 2,680 manufactured by Columbus-based Lustron Corporation beginning in 1948, according to the Ohio History Connection, which has a Lustron home on display on the first floor of the Ohio History Center, I-71 and 17th Ave., Columbus.

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The state history organization estimates that only about 1,500 homes remain.

Credit: Annette Sand

Credit: Annette Sand

A handful of Lustron homes are in the Dayton area are listed on the Lustron Locator. 

Hannah Brevoort, a museum educator at the  Ohio History Center, said there are about 200 Lustron homes in Ohio.

“It is possible that there are other homes that are (unregistered),” she said.

Due to shipping cost, many of the homes were sold in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, she said.

“There are really no houses that look like a Lustron,” Brevoort said. “Once (people) know what a Lustron looks like, they are going to start seeing them all over the place.”

She said the prefabricated homes are intriguing to many partly because they are mid-century modern.

People who own Lustron homes often say they enjoy them, she said.

“They really talk about how easy it is to maintain,” Brevoort said.

Owners use magnets to hang items and use garden hoses to clean off their homes, she said.

Cathy Mong — a retired Dayton Daily News reporter, artist and real estate buff —  toured the Germantown house with local Realtor Michael Martin of Kamela & Company Realty and was impressed. 

“It is like stepping back (in time),” she said. “The only thing that isn’t original is the dining room chandelier.”

Lustron homes were supposed to be the answer to the housing shortage following WWII, Mong said.

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Credit: Annette Sand

Credit: Annette Sand

The Truman administration helped Lustron home inventor Carl G. Strandlund get a $15.5 million dollar loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, according to information provided by Ohio History Connection.

That government agency had been created to help industry during the Depression.

The company with the slogan “The House America Has Been Waiting For” was forced into foreclosure in 1951 after the fact that Strandlund couldn’t cover loan payments became public.

The million-square-foot Lustron plant near the Columbus airport was converted back into a defense production plant.

Brevoort said the company closed rather abruptly.

“There were outstanding orders for homes that were not fulfilled,” she said.

Credit: Cathy Mong

Credit: Cathy Mong

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