“Charles Mintz’s Lustron Stories is a compelling work on many levels. The images capture the context and the particulars of both our ideas about home and the realities of home. Students of house and home in the U.S. have often missed the importance of personal intimacy in studying housing issues outside the realm of reform. Mint’s work reminds us of the complexities of these spaces. The Lustron prefabricated house also provides a consistency of field and common reference to space that draws our eye naturally to the people and the relationships depicted in the photographs. The subjects are, indeed, home.”—Douglas Knerr, author of Suburban Steel: The Magnificent Failure of the Lustron Corporation, 1945–1951 (OSU Press)
“Chuck connects the viewer through these intimate portraits of the individuals who live in these treasures from our recent past. Each picture captures a unique story and time.”—Bill Mahon, Ohio History Connection
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.
Charles Mintz studied photography at the Maine Photographic Workshop, Parsons School of Design, the International Center for Photography, Lakeland Community College, and Cuyahoga Community College. He has a BSEE from Purdue University and an MSEE from Cleveland State University.
The Columbus Dispatch published an article about the project and resulting book.
Visit Charles Mintz's website.
Visit a Lustron Home at the Ohio History Connection
Watch a short documentary about Lustron created by OSU Public Media.
The Magnificent Failure of the Lustron Corporation, 1945–1951
Planning for the Private Interest
Land Use Controls and Residential Patterns in Columbus, Ohio, 1900–1970
Builders of Ohio
A Biographical History
Edited by Warren Van Tine and Michael Pierce