Lustron homes still a thing in Great Bend
Great Bend like any other city has many homes spread out through neighborhoods, but in some of these residential areas some might see a home that don’t look like what a standard house would. These homes are made up of all steel construction and were built in the 1950s.
These homes are know as the “Lustron” Home. They are constructed of metal panels and promoted as the most modern advancement in post-World War II housing. The term “Lustron” was coined to describe “luster on steel” a simple, mass-produced home built of prefabricated, porcelain enamel on steel panels.
“These homes are very unique and stand out among the homes that surround them in the neighborhoods in which they are in,” Barton County Historical Society researcher Karen Neuforth said. They played an important part of the history here in Great Bend.”
Because of these homes, Great Bend in known as the “Lustron Home Capital of Kansas.”
According to the BCHS, during World War II, the local population grew with construction of Great Bend Army Air Field west of town. There just wasn’t enough on-base housing.
Garages were turned into apartments, basements and spare rooms rented out, but there was still a housing shortage for workers, soldiers and families during the war.
After the war, when the newly discharged soldiers returned, accommodations remained scarce. With the Gl Bill, many veterans attended college, then returned home to start new businesses, completely changing the commercial scene, and creating an overwhelming demand for single family homes.
“These homes were important to Great Bend’s growth,” Neuforth said. “New families and veterans returning from the war were a population boom for Great Bend and affordable housing was in high demand and these houses fit the bill. They arrived on trucks in a big box and went up fast.”
Great Bend boasts eighteen Lustron homes within the city limits. Others are dotted all around the area.
Like many “mid-century modern” buildings, Lustrons boast the primary characteristics of post-war architecture: a progressive intent; a novel mix of materials; a divergence from traditional construction methods.
“These were homes made for what we now call “the Greatest Generation” – the men and women who had fought for the American way of life, built and flown the mighty war birds like the B-29 Superfortresses, seen and done everything there was to see and do,” Neuforth said. “Simplicity, economy and sustainability were the order of the day.”
Great Bend’s Crescent Park Addition, on the south side of Broadway across from Great Bend Cemetery, was originally intended to be the Lustron village, but the failure of the Lustron manufacturing company in 1950, put an end to that dream. However, Crescent Park still hosts the greatest concentration of Lustron homes in Great Bend.
The following Lustron homes are located in Great Bend. Two of these local homes are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. All are privately owned. However, anyone interested in touring a Lustron may do so during regular hours at the Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village, 85 South U.S. 281.
Disassembled and reassembled, piece by piece, in 2005 and 2006, the Village includes a Lustron house which was donated in memory of Marion and Edith Weeks and is complete with authentic period furnishings.
• 1307 Coolidge St.
• 1310 Coolidge St.
• 1408 Coolidge St.
• 1301 Harding St.
• 1311 Harding St.
• 1317 Harding St.
• 1410 Harding St.
• 1417 Harding St.
• 1411 Wilson St.
• 1412 Broadway Ave.
• 1416 Broadway Ave.
• 1424 Broadway Ave.
• 1444 Broadway Ave.
• 3410 Broadway Ave.
• 2525 McBride Parkway
• 2501 Cheyenne Drive
• 2622 Paseo Drive
• 2601 Coronado St.