Lustron Houses Were Important to Brentwood: Part Two
Brentwood has 15 Lustron houses remaining.
So what makes the Lustron house so special? As we discussed last week, it was considered the cutting edge of architecture back in the 1950s. Some still consider it an architectural marvel. The city of Webster Groves is working to make all of its Lustron houses historic landmarks. Some of the more unusual features include:
- Some considered the use of radiant heating in the ceiling as its major design flaw.
- According to Tom Bakersmith, a local retired mapmaker and considered the St. Louis expert on Lustron houses, there was an unusual feature to the houses that did not survive. It was a unique machine that could wash both clothes and dishes, although not at the same time. Why it has not survived, he doesn't know.
One of the surviving Lustron houses on Litzsinger Road is a rare three bedroom, 1,200 square foot house known as the Westchester 03 model. There were seven pastel colors available. The stretch of houses on Litzsinger is considered one of the last clusters of Lustron houses in the country.
The St. Louis connection in the Lustron legacy stays very close to Brentwood. Apparently Charles DeWitt Sr.'s company was located on Litzsinger and it used the houses on Litzsinger as model homes. According to a Dec. 12, 2006 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Charles DeWitt Jr. remembers riding his bike to watch the first model in St. Louis go up near the site of the University Club Tower on Brentwood Boulevard. If all went well, an entire home could be assembled in a day.
So what happened to the Lustron house boom? Opinions vary. Some say that the American passion for larger homes contributed to its demise. Others are more pragmatic. The company could not mass produce enough houses quickly enough to satisfy their customers. The government, who had loaned the company $40 million, called the loan in and the last Lustron house rolled off the assembly line in June 1950.
Today, Lustron houses are enjoyed by countless residents who wouldn’t dream of living anywhere else. Frequent comments include durability and an unusual design.
Brentwood has 15 Lustron houses still standing—second only to Webster Groves' 21 in the area—allowing a little bit of the past to live on in Brentwood.