Ms. M. Emily Grossman’s June 30 indictment of Urbana’s resurrected Lustron home is fraught with errors, omissions and misinformation.
I have disassembled, reassembled and updated Lustron homes since 2003, beginning with the Whitehall Historical Society’s acquisition of a former London home that is now our headquarters near Port Columbus. I assisted in assembling one in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, and, when that house was later donated to the Ohio History Connection, provided guidance, parts and labor in assembling it in its Columbus museum. The Ohio group routinely refers inquiries to us, including Mr. Lokai’s, when he sought information about his Urbana Lustron. We provided guidance, located and provided many parts, and even assisted him in the actual parts retrieval from a recently-razed Beaver Creek Lustron. His five-star restoration of the house ranks highly among the handful of such efforts made around the country, and it now makes an outstanding impression as one enters the city.
The automotive engineers who designed Lustrons were far ahead of their time with respect to creating a structure in which retaining heat was a primary objective. They reflect features that simply didn’t exist in mainstream, entry-level housing in the 1940s. Separate walls studs keep exterior and interior surfaces from contacting each other. This thermal break prevented heat from transferring from inside to outside. Insulation was attached to exterior panels, and stuffed into all nooks and crannies around doors, windows, and framing members. (I’ve owned homes built as late as 1960 that had zero wall insulation.) Insulation was installed in the attic.
Floor slabs were separated from the exterior footings with insulation, further reducing heat transfer. Maintenance-free windows closed and sealed tightly, and neoprene gaskets between all metal panels prevented air leakage – this, in an era when house wrap and foam sealing in today’s homes did not exist. Most owners effectively use a single window air conditioner in an open area for the whole house – although other approaches can be used. And whether heating or cooling them, the shiny interior walls stay warm or cool because they retain heat/cold.
And just as with cars, they perform and last about as well as the way that they’re assembled and maintained. We’ve all seen examples of identical cars that are a lemon for one owner, and yet a creampuff for another. Excellent design succeeds when properly executed and maintained.
The same can be said of Lustrons. I personally have experienced the comfortable, affordable and dust/draft-free living that they provide. For those who don’t, it means that something in the system isn’t functioning as intended, and there might not be sufficient insulation blown into the attic. Old furnaces lose efficiency, and their replacements need to match the Lustron’s specified output requirements. Window seals shrink after some 70 years in use, so some owners replace the aluminum single-pane ones with more efficient ones – just as do millions of conventional home owners. Others install interior storms windows to preserve the windows’ original appearance. Some install additional wall insulation, or seal air leaks that might have developed along foundations.
As for cold floors and mice – all slabs feel cold to the touch year-round, unless they have hot water running through them to heat a home. Mice have been with us in our 1990s Reynoldsburg home from “day one.” It’s not a design flaw; it’s part of owning a house, right along with spiders and centipedes!
No, the Lustron’s design is neither flawed nor comparable to a “detention center.” One need only to observe the legions of devotees around the country (and outside of it), and enjoy all that has been written and documented about the phenomenon that it remains.
Steve McLoughlin, Past President
The Whitehall Historical Society