Quantico Marine Base-Housing with a History

LustronAs with so many military bases in Northern Virginia the need to improve older base housing often means tearing down outdated housing to make way for homes that meet the needs of today’s families.  At Quantico that meant getting rid of the largest collection of pre-fab Lustron homes found in the US.

Unlike a stainless steel refrigerator, owners and residents of Lustron homes could hang their children’s art work with magnets.  In fact you could use magnets all over the house because the homes were entirely pre-fabricated out of porcelain enameled steel.   The other unique feature of these homes was their exterior colors.  Unlike typical military housing which is fairly bland (loads of brick) Lustron homes came in maize yellow, dove gray, surf blue, desert tan, flamingo pink, sea blue–green.

Over the years families who lived in the Lustron homes either loved them or hated them.  They were originally thought to be the answer to the post war housing booming by creating pre-fab houses that could easily be built on a poured slab foundation.    Built-ins were a big component of the houses with built-ins found in the living room, dining room and bedrooms.  All of the houses had sliding pocket doors to save the room that swinging doors needs.  Since the houses could be assembled in just a few months the military with a need to beef up base housing as quickly as possible after WWII purchased 58 of the Lustron homes at Quantico MCB.

In the early 1990’s while running education programs for the military I spent one day a week on Quantico.  A couple of the Marines I worked with invited me over to take a look at their unusual Lustron homes. They were small but as a fan of mid-century modern and unique homes they were an interesting example of how an idea to use left over materials from WWII might have changed our entire housing industry.  Unfortunately the idea failed and instead of 25,000 Lustron homes rolling off the assembly line the plant only turned out 1500 before it closed down.

Fortunately when the decision was made to build new housing at Quantico the developer realized that the Lustron homes should not just be razed to make way for the new houses.  In mid-2006 applications were taken from interested parties who might want to dismantle one or more of the homes and relocate them to another site.  A few of the homes were dismantled to be used for Katrina housing and at least two of the homes will remain on Quantico as part of the National Historic Register.

Lustron2So with the change in housing needs of the military a little piece of history leaves Quantico but at least many of the homes will find new lives to house another generation of young families.

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