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Why people thought steel houses were a good idea

It was supposed to be the future of housing. What went wrong?

Why aren’t homes made of steel? In the late 1940s, one company posed that question. Lustron made prefabricated homes that were supposed to be the future of housing. So why did it fail?

For just a few years — 1947 to 1950 — the Columbus, Ohio-based Lustron represented the future of housing. Using a steel frame and porcelain enamel-covered steel panels, Lustron made homes in a factory and shipped them around the country.

Vox’s Phil Edwards visited a Lustron home just outside Dayton, Ohio, to experience the unusual features, like magnetic walls, for himself. This home’s quirks weren’t relegated to the materials. Through a combination of government funding sources, an attempt to reinvent the production cycle for homes, and a unique distribution plan, the Lustron home helps explain how housing does — and doesn’t — work in America.

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