Architectural Integrity and the Lustron

A building which retains its architectural integrity is one which has been maintained as it was built and intended to be.  When buildings are altered through remodeling or the installation of “maintenance -free” windows or siding, integrity is compromised.  Such compromise is increasingly commonplace.  On rare occasions, both wood and masonry buildings can be altered and still maintain their original feel.  Physical integrity is still compromised, but perceptually the change is minimal.  However, this is the exception and not the rule.

But what about pre-fabricated metal houses?  The fabled Lustron house, which was available in three models (the Westchester, Newport and Meadowbrook), is much less resilient to change.  Not just less resilient, but downright hostile to change.  And why not?  The very idea of the house was that it was perfect from the start and would not ever require change – not even paint!  A house designed with a specified plan utilizing a specified number of specific manufactured parts (not to mention baked-on finishes) was never meant to be fluid and adaptable; by its very nature it was resistant to change.  So, it should come as no surprise that when Lustrons are altered the only result can be the loss of architectural integrity and the loss of their iconic character.

The first two houses shown below are intact examples of the Westchester – those following them illustrate why architectural integrity is important!

An intact Westchester in blue… with original windows (the awning is a later addition).

 

An intact Westchester in yellow… with original windows.

 

A compromised Westchester painted in camo colors with white vinyl replacement windows.

 

The addition of a permanent concrete ramp and flimsy black railing was not character-enhancing.

 

Sigh.  Wouldn’t room-darkening shades have been a better option for the back bedroom?  Peeling paint shows the futility of putting paint on porcelainized steel panels which are subjected to weather.

 

Here are some more Lustron makeovers which I found online:

 

Covered in stone (and a bit of vinyl siding below the replacement windows)!  From https://flimsypi.blogspot.com/2013/08/lustron-homes-westchester-model-two.html

 

The Westchester in black with enclosed porch and replacement windows. From http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3FY5_4900_Cedar_Ave_S_Minneapolis_MN

 

Even though the orange is not an original Lustron color, I kind of like it. The replacement windows are surprisingly sympathetic to the originals, though lacking horizontal muntins on the sides).  Also note that the angular porch support has been replaced with a sedate post.  This updated Lustron does a better job at maintaining the original intent than the other examples shown here – in spite of the vibrant orange paint.   From https://www.pinterest.com/pin/146578162845121383/

 

Vinyl siding and plastic shutters over truly maintenance-free porcelainized steel panels?!  Note how the siding is actually notched around the shutters!   Double-hung windows will never look good on a Lustron.  From http://historyculturebybicycle.blogspot.com/2011/10/lustron-homes.html

 

 

 

4 Responses to Architectural Integrity and the Lustron

  1. Yes, these are strong examples of how detrimental unsympathetic alterations can be.

    There are several Lustron houses in our side of the city here in Aurora. I haven’t looked at them closely, but they appear to be largely intact. I will have to take a closer look and compare to your good examples. They are neat houses.

    • According to Wikipedia, Aurora has seven! As well as other nice bits of architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bruce Goff, George Grant Elmslie and a large collection of Sears kit houses – over 50! Very enviable!

    • Another excellent example of an effort to normalize a Lustron! Given all the other changes, I’m amazed that this altered Westchester still has its original windows. The “shutters” give added depth to the word superfluous… thanks!

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