WILMETTE – Imagine owning a home that never needs to be painted but can be maintained by wiping it down with a cloth. And the roof never needs to be replaced because, like the walls and everything else, it’s constructed of porcelain enameled steel. Believe it or not, such a home exists in Wilmette and was recently put on the market.
“It’s sort of off-the-wall construction,” Kevin Rutherford, the Baird & Warner listing agent, told DailyNorthShore.com.
The home, located at 2545 Lake Avenue, is an original and rare Lustron home. Lustron homes were developed by Chicago industrialist Carl Strandlund after World War II. Strandlund sought to create a low-maintenance house that would serve soldiers returning home from war and in search of the suburban dream, according to The National Trust for Historic Preservation.
What sets Lustron homes apart from others is their construction. The homes are made of prefabricated porcelain enameled steel — each house contained 3,300 parts — and were pieced together over about two weeks.
Strandlund originally patented the panels for gas stations and restaurants but started using them for homes after he founded the Lustron Corporation in 1947, according to The National Trust for Historic Preservation. The company received a multi-million dollar loan from the federal government to help solve the housing crisis. Located in a former warplane manufacturing plant in Columbus, Ohio, the company made less than 3,000 homes before going bankrupt in 1950.
Many of those homes have been torn down over the years — an estimated 1,500 exist — which makes it remarkable that the Wilmette Lustron house is intact. The exterior is maize yellow that matches the kitchen and bathroom, while the living room, dining room and bedrooms are dove gray. And everything is porcelain enameled steel from the exterior walls and roof to the interior walls and ceilings. Sturdy magnets are needed to hang pictures.
“It’s going to be challenging to find a buyer for this house but there is a buyer out there. There always is,” Rutherford said. Rutherford noted that the home has an expansive backyard and might appeal to someone who wants to downsize but isn’t ready to move into a condominium. “It might be someone who loves the idea of nostalgia,” he said.
Rutherford noted that the current owner purchased the house 18 years ago because he found its unique history appealing. “He was really appreciate that I am marketing this as a historical home rather than a tear down,” Rutherford said.
The folks at the Wilmette Historical Museum are too. “It is an important and interesting part of Wilmette history,” Patrick Leary, curator at the museum told DailyNorthShore.com. “The house symbolizes the variety of architectural styles (in Wilmette).”
Leary noted that the house is an example of mid-century modern innovative construction and materials. “We have always been really proud that Wilmette had this house,” he said.
Leary said the original owner was Everette Saunders, who was an art teacher in the Wilmette schools. “He was an interesting guy,” Leary said. Saunders wanted to try out one of these new innovative, low maintenance homes, when he purchased the Lustron to live in with his wife and young child. Saunders chose the yellow and grey color scheme and it took six weeks to put the house together.
While the house has changed owners over the years, very little seems to have changed. The living room boasts original built-in shelves, while the master bedroom has a built-in vanity and there’s a china pass-through between the kitchen and dining room. The tidy two-bedroom, one bathroom home is a mere 1,021 square feet constructed over a slab.
“We would love to see somebody buy that house those who cares about the history and is a good steward of the house,” Leary said. “It’s really fun and we are interested in that house and we want to continue to see it part of Wilmette’s architectural landscape,” Leary added.
As Rutherford said in the marketing materials: “Here is your chance to own a slice of Americana.”
To learn more about Lustron homes go to www.savingplaces.org or visit the Wilmette Historical Museum to learn more about the Wilmette Lustron house. To see a listing of the Wilmette home go to www.bairdwarner.com.