Wheeling preserves post WWII housing tradition

WHEELING — Although many of Wheeling’s real estate trends have come and gone over the years, one short-lived style of the early post-WWII era lingers in the city today.

While Americans celebrated a victory in Europe, the country’s housing markets came up short, with returning GIs in need of homes. Manufactured in Columbus, Ohio, from 1948-50, Lustron homes were crafted of porcelain-enameled steel and designed for low-maintenance buyers. Fashioned by a Chicago businessman, Carl Strandlund, inspired by wartime and airplane technology, the peculiar tiled exteriors included baked-in color and no-nonsense decor.

The ahead-of-its-time company boasted a “new way of life” to young soldiers, offering the prospect of happy families and suburban daydreams, shipped to the buyer’s choice location. In those two years, the company built and delivered thousands of the innovative abodes before meeting its end in bankruptcy.

Although Lustron homes are fairly rare throughout the nation, several can be spotted in various Wheeling neighborhoods today. A sprinkling of Lustron homes can be found in Warwood and Woodsdale. Popular Lustron locations include Edgwood Street and nearby Edglawn Avenue.   Another Lustron house sits on Pallister Road, and another can be found on Romney Road. Single Lustrons can also be spotted on Hess and Orchard avenues.

Jeanne Finstein, president of Friends of Wheeling, said the homes are a long-standing piece of Wheeling’s unique aesthetic.

“They were crafted and inspired following a housing market shortage following WWII,” Finstein said. “The country didn’t have enough homes for returning soldiers. Wheeling was one of the several locations for them.”

Finstein added that she visited a Lustron Home nearly 50 years ago, and the visit was a unique experience.

“It may just be me, but they seem a little bit cooler than a normal home no matter what room you’re in. They had very unique, ready-made kitchens,” she said. “It was difficult to hang a picture or do indoor decorating.”


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