Louisville Magazine

MAY 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/300717

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Page 43 of 120

5.14 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 4 1 If IKEA made houses, they would probably look like Barry Whaley's Highlands home. Te one- story, Mid-Century ranch with an exterior of porcelain-enamel steel panels was made by now-de- funct manufacturer Lustron, which, according to the website Lustron Preservation, was founded by inventor Carl Strandlund in 1948 to solve the post-WWII housing shortage by manufacturing inexpensive, maintenance-free homes. Te original owner of Whaley's house, Stewart Deisenroth, was a sales representative for Lustron. In '48, trucks hauled Deisenroth's house from the Lustron factory in Columbus, Ohio, to the lot where it still sits. Lustron owners could customize their homes, choosing from several models and colors. Deisenroth picked the two-bedroom, 1,085-square-foot Westchester Deluxe model with surf-blue exterior panels. Te three-bedroom Westchester was the largest Lustron, at 1,209 square feet. Other models Deisenroth could have chosen: the Newport, Esquire or Mead- owbrook. Other exterior color options were maize yellow, desert tan and dove gray. Whaley, 55, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, bought the house in 2009. He's always been a big fan of Mid- Century design. "Do you really have to ask why I bought it?" he asks, laughing. After he moved in, he found out that Lustron houses have a bit of a cult following. He belongs to several Listservs and a Facebook group dedicated to discussing the history and preservation of the houses. "I can't tell you how many times people drive by and stop and want to talk about the house," he says. A directory maintained by members on Lustron Preserva- tion lists 15 other Lustrons in Louisville, including a few others near Whaley's home. Shannon Tomas of the Ohio Historical Society, which maintains the Lustron Preserva- tion site, says only about 1,500 of 2,498 Lustrons are left. Tomas says they appeal to a niche market. (An Internet search turned up several Lustrons across the country that sold, or are for sale, for less than $100,000. A seller in Madison, Wis., ofered a Lustron, to be disassembled by the buyer, for $1.) To Lustron fans like Whaley, a "pristine" house is a rare gem. A previous owner of Whaley's home replaced the original metal cabinets with oak and updated the bathroom, so Whaley's house isn't entirely preserved. But it does still have the original built-in vanities in the bedrooms and bookshelves in the living room. Another distinctive feature of Lustrons is the metal walls. Whaley's are still the original light-gray color. He hangs art and photos with magnets. In the util- ity room, Whaley points to a few holes in the walls. "Tere should be a badge somewhere on this wall that gives you the serial number of the house. Whenever somebody contacts me about the house, they say, 'What's your serial number?'" he says. He calls the serial number "the Holy Grail of Lustrons." He suspects a previous owner removed this one as a "souvenir." A Lustron brochure that Deisenroth left behind touts the amenities of the house. "Te original houses had this crazy dishwasher/clothes-washer thing," Whaley says. "A handy unit that converts in a jify from clothes washer to dishwasher,'' he reads from the brochure. Tomas says most Lus- tron owners got rid of the machines after a few years. Lustrons never really caught on with 1940s homebuyers and the company folded in 1950. Whaley says that after the company's demise, Deisenroth moved on and the Shawnee American Legion Post rafed the house of. Te winner acquired the place with a 25-cent ticket. The Luster of Lustrons 38-49 Real Estate.indd 41 4/17/14 2:52 PM

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