This little ranch house is one of fewer than fifty known examples in Michigan manufactured between 1946 and 1950 by the Lustron Homes Company of Columbus, Ohio. The company was established in 1946 by Carl Strandlund of Minnesota, who was a former employee of the Chicago Vitreous Enamel Products Company, which manufactured the building materials for gas stations and hamburger stands. These prefabricated houses attempted to offer a solution to the postwar housing shortage. They illustrate in building construction the application of new materials and new methods of manufacturing and handling, and the benefits of being low in maintenance.
Built on a concrete slab, the exterior and interior surfaces of the house are finished in porcelain-enameled modular steel panels. This house is the standard two-bedroom model known as the “Westchester” and is finished in desert tan; a steel plate bearing its serial number located in the utility room testifies to its origins. It cost about $8,000. Warren and Florence Highstone, local merchants, first read about Lustron houses in Life magazine. Attracted by their uniqueness and carefree maintenance, they located a Michigan dealer in Sturgis and placed an order. All the parts arrived in one trailer, and the house was assembled in two weeks.
Lustron Homes advertised its product and received attention in such national magazines as Popular Mechanics, Better Homes and Gardens, Life, Look, and Collier's. Just under twenty-five hundred were built nationwide before the company went bankrupt in 1950. Some say lumbermen, brick manufacturers, and others forced the company out of business. Most of the houses were located in New York City, Long Island, Connecticut, the New Jersey shore, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. In Michigan Lustron houses are found in the larger cities of southern Lower Michigan—Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Muskegon, and St. Joseph. Examples are the Briney and Simmons houses (c. 1950) at 1125 and 1127 Hillcrest Avenue in St. Joseph.