July 27, 2006
Lustron - The House America's Been Waiting For
Synopsis: Lustron - The House America's Been Waiting For, tells the story of Chicago inventor Carl Strandlund and his crusade to revolutionize homebuilding by mass-producing steel houses-100 each day-on an assembly line.
At the end of World War II, 12-million war veterans returned to a housing crisis. Some slept in grain silos, old streetcars and chicken coops. President Harry Truman seized the opportunity to force builders and suppliers to concentrate solely on housing for young families, especially the families of war veterans.
Leading architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller threw themselves at the problem The answer: prefabricated housing-a new industry that would provide a better standard of living to all American families.
Every effort failed but one. It took an industrial genius from Chicago, a gambler obsessed with the odds, to pull it off. Charming and relentlessly enthusiastic Strandlund won over congressmen, bureaucrats and even President Truman. He negotiated landmark labor agreements with national trade unions that saw housing as America's great new industry. Armed with 37 million tax dollars, Carl Strandlund risked everything he had to mass-produce the American Dream-a dream made of porcelain-enameled steel called the Lustron home.
Porcelain-enameled steel, the same resistant finish found on bathtubs and appliances, covered all surfaces of the Lustron house. Strandlund planned to roll them off auto-style assembly lines. In suburban neighborhoods across the Midwest, the South and Northeast, Lustron houses were popping up at the rate of one house every four days. The social and economic implications were enormous. Then, at the threshold of success came an untold tragedy at the hands of men connected to the White House.
Meet producer and architect Bill Ferehawk at this screening and explore a little known historical period of American architecture. At the same time, you will discover a fascinating parallel with Francis Ford Coppola's movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Lustron producer Ed Moore remarks, "Strandlund and Tucker both made the better mousetrap and both were toppled by politics and corruption in Washington."
Bio: Bill Ferehawk is a graduate of the Yale School of Architecture and the University of California, Berkeley. He is a recipient of three Graham Foundation Grants and numerous awards for his work in documentary film. Since 1989, Bill has studied process driven architecture, including extensive research and writing about American prefabricated and manufactured housing. In 1992, he completed a study of the planning and architecture of contemporary American intentional communities. His interest is to continue to produce documentary films about the post-war built environment.
Co-sponsor: Great Houston Preservation Alliance (opens a new window)