Lost: Quantico Lustrons

Posted on: October 16th, 2007 by Margaret Foster 1 Comment

LustronThe largest demolition of Lustron houses began this week.

Built in the 1950s, 34 all-steel houses on the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., will soon be reduced to rubble, despite preservationists' request to salvage materials.

"I'm really disappointed. It's just a huge loss for Lustron owners across the country," says Todd Zeiger, director the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana's northern regional office. "You can't make these parts anymore."

Only one house was saved: A Delaware man forked up $15,000 to dismantle a three-bedroom house for his retirement. "When I was notified I was awarded a home, I went down there and took a walk through the neighborhood, and this one jumped out as being the one in the best condition," says engineer and architect Dave Mills. "I understand taking some buildings down, but I think a better effort could have been made to save these."

The Marine Corps, which owns the buildings, delegated the task of finding potential new owners to developer Clark Realty Capital, based in Bethesda, Md., which has a $240 million contract to build 1,100 new houses on Lustron site. After a two-year search, Clark chose to donate 30 of the houses to Earl Simmons, a Kansas businessman with a scheme to resell the Lustrons. Unfortunately, Simmons backed off on his proposal last summer.

"When that [plan] didn't follow through, they didn't have a Plan B, and now we've lost all these pieces for Lustron homes across the country," says Todd Zeiger, director of the northern regional office of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Zeiger's group, along with the Arlington Heritage Alliance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Recent Past Preservation Network, submitted a proposal to salvage parts from the houses, but Clark contacted those groups just two weeks before the demolition was set to begin.

"They gave us two weeks, and there's no way to put together a 40-house salvage operation in two weeks," Zeiger says.

Clark, which last year completed a renovation of 38 apartment buildings built on the base in the 1920s, created a Web site about the Lustrons and extended its deadline for proposals. "We did everything we could," Clark development executive Mike Dowling told the Washington Post. (Dowling was not available for comment, according to a Clark spokeswoman.)

There were originally 58 Lustrons at Quantico. Last year, during phase one of its project, Clark demolished more than 20 Lustrons before offering the others for free.

"I was shocked that Clark did not get a very big response to this," says Mills, who does not plan to return to Quantico. "It would be too painful. I don't want to see it."

For more information, visit:

http://www.nationaltrust.org/magazine/archives/arc_mag/ja07feature2.htm http://www.nationaltrust.org/magazine/archives/arc_news_2007/041807.htm http://www.nationaltrust.org/magazine/archives/arch_story/012706.htm

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Preservation Magazine

One Response

  1. Kim O'Connell

    October 16, 2007

    Thank you for writing this piece on the Quantico Lustrons, Margaret. It lessens the feeling of loss somewhat to at least see this article written about the last hurrah of the Quantico Lustrons.