The story of Lustron Homes in Greensboro is a curious touchstone to the city’s post-war building boom.
Fueled by industrial growth during World War II, Greensboro’s population and commerce rocketed in the late 1940s and 1950s. Neighborhoods such as Kirkwood, on the city’s northwestern edge, witnessed considerable construction.
Kirkwood was a development of the old David A. Kirkpatrick farm by Matheson-Wills Real Estate Company and H. W. Clendenin & Son Realtors and Builders. I was to commemorate Captain Kirkwood and his “Delaware Gamecocks” that fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse during the American Revolutionary War.
Homesites were marketed to high-income clients in the mid and late-1920s. A few sprawling estates were erected, one for C. C. Hudson and another for Lucille and Joseph Holt. The former has been destroyed but the latter remains a private home. https://preservationgreensboro.org/the-secrets-of/
Sales slowed due to the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, but post-World War II growth placed a premium on undeveloped lots. Modest new housing included five- and six-room plans that sold between $7,100 and $9,500 were marketed to newlyweds with modest incomes and growing families.
In 1946, an article published in the Greensboro Daily News that “W. H. Weaver construction company, which has work well under way on 65 veterans’ homes in the Kirkwood area…” Another contractor, Player Realty Company of Fayetteville had another 65 houses under contraction at the time. Construction was so competitive that builders experienced a national shortage of supplies ranging from nails to rock lathe.
To address the national building material and labor shortages, innovators turned to pre-manufactured and “kit” houses that packaged materials for site delivery and reduced labor needs. Chicago industrialist Carl Strandlund introduced the Lustron house to the US market as a prefabricated porcelain enameled steel structure that could be shipped anywhere in the nation and assembled with minimal labor. In the case of the Lustron house, the entire structure was built of enameled steel, even the kitchen, and its built-in dining area.
By 1949, Lustron Corporation had 234 dealers in 35 states. However, it could not keep up with demand and an investigation by a U.S. Senate banking subcommittee uncovered a corruption scandal within the company. It was forced into bankruptcy in 1950. Only 1,500 of these homes are thought to survive today, including two in Greensboro’s Kirkwood neighborhood.
Greensboro’s two Lustrons are located at 2302 Lawndale Avenue and 2103 Dellwood Drive. Both are well-preserved examples of “Westchester Deluxe” two-bedroom model. An advertisement in the Greensboro Daily News in 1948 promoted its “Size—5 commodious rooms, plus large utility room – total more than 1,000 square foot. Design—follows growing trend towards conservatively modern, ranch-style architecture. Choice of colors for exterior and interior, all in non-glossy, semi-matte finish, porcelain enameled steel. Maintenance—Can be kept clean with a damp cloth. Never needs repainting, redecorating or reroofing.”
Taylor Made Homes at 110 South Greene Street was the local authorized dealer of Lustrons. The company promoted that GI’s could acquire a Lustron Home for 0-down. An article in January 1949 pictured a Taylor-Made Lustron Home under construction at 2302 Lawndale Avenue. City Directories indicate the first occupants of the Lawndale Lustron were Flora and Curt Freiberg. The couple came to the US from Germany in 1937. Curt worked at the Greensboro Wine Store. They lived in the house for just one year. The couple are interred in the Greensboro Hebrew Cemetery.
The first occupants of the Dellwood Lustron were Jean and Robert E. McCoy. The couple were natives of Durham and Robert was Secretary-Treasurer of Made-Rite Sandwich Company at the time they lived in the house.
Edit 2021: Both of these Lustron Homes are owned by Karen and Halstead McAdoo and are operated as Air BnB accommodations.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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