The Lustron Corporation manufactured porcelain-baked, enamel-coated all-steel houses between 1948 and 1950 in Columbus, OH. Virtually everything—exterior siding, roof, interior walls, cabinets, and ceilings—was made out of this material. The components were shipped to site on specially designed trailers and assembled by local contractors using only wrenches. About 2,500 Lustrons were sold, mostly in the eastern United States, but as far afield as Miami and Los Alamos. Roughly two-thirds are still being used today.
A remarkable cross section of individuals and families live in these modest (~1100 sq. ft.) homes. While certainly diverse in age and place in life, the homeowners are still firmly working class. Everyone who lives in a Lustron home has an opinion about it. The material is miserable to cut or drill into. Repairs are more about metalworking and enamel finishing than carpentry or house painting. And magnets tend to be a popular solution for hanging objects inside and outside the steel walls.
Four years ago, Charles Mintz set out to photograph the people living in these homes. The residents, owners, or both were photographed outside and occasionally inside. Mintz used a large format wooden camera and available light. This book features 65 of the resulting photographs and essays from Shannon Thomas Perich, Curator of the Photographic History Collection at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and Jeffrey Head, author and architecture critic.