In 1994, buried in a forgotten box in the Ohio State Historical Society, film producers, Bill Kubota, Ed Moore and Bill Ferehawk discovered a trail of newspaper clippings, Senate hearing transcripts and internal Lustron Corporation documents which suggested that the collapse of what was being called in 1950 the “General Motors of housing” was brought on not by simple market forces but by a government conspiracy that reached all the way to the Truman White House.

Now for the first time, this crucial juncture in history is explored. The one-hour documentary, 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 Two, 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.

“For many groups, the idea of mass-producing the world’s biggest commodity—a house—was an extremely tempting and provocative idea,” claims producer and architect, Bill Ferehawk. “Lustron could have been the silver bullet that solved social problems by providing quality affordable houses for the common man.”

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 devious conspirators connected to the White House.

It is difficult to avoid comparing Lustron with Coppola’s movie, Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” remarks Lustron producer Ed Moore. “Strandlund and Tucker both made the better mousetrap and both were toppled by politics and corruption in Washington.”

“The story is a revelation,” says Tom Beeby, former dean of the Yale School of Architecture, “that manufactured housing can actually be done and it dispels the myths surrounding the failures of manufactured housing

Perhaps producer Bill Kubota sums it up best, “Lustron was a tragedy. Lustron’s failure had nothing to do with great ideas and everything to do with politics.”

(home)    (the producers)   (contacts)   (links)
(in the works)   

Copyright (c) 2008 KDN Films, Inc. All rights reserved