Lustron Demolished

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Friday, October 21, 2005
It was quite the treat to see a full-color Lustron, and its proud owner, on the cover of the Webster-Kirkwood Times newspaper. The more exposure they get, the more people may come to love them, and with a couple of them for sale in Webster Groves, this is great publicity.

Sunday, October 23, 2005
I get this e-mail from the very same Lady Lustron owner currently on the front page of said newspaper:

Oh my gosh, I just randomly fell upon your blog post regarding the Lustrons. I was quite surprised when the first image to load was a shot of my own home! I was further surprised when the next images were of the 540 Ridge interior. My past week of activity has been fully immersed inside that home.

I so hate to be the messenger of bad news, and most especially in this case, as you yourself talked so highly of the home and your desires to acquire it, but the home was demolished this Tuesday, October 18, 2005.

The good news in the case of the Ridge home is that while on the site attempting to salvage parts from the home, a woman from the local Historic Preservation Commission just happened to walk by the home and started a conversation that led to an invitation to the next Webster Groves meeting. They have already proposed that an ordinance be put in place so that all the Lustrons in Webster Groves are designated as historic. This would impose a 120 day wait period for all imminent demolitions of a Lustron (or any historic) site. The saga with the 540 Ridge home will be part of the presentation I plan to deliver to the commission on November 16, 2005, and photos like yours that illustrate the very good condition of its interior would really add to the impact of the loss that was suffered by demolishing this home.
Thanks so much!
Angie Boesch
deolished lustron in Webster Groves, photo by Toby Weiss

She asked if I had any more photos of the dearly departed (yes, I do), and can she use them for the Webster Groves city hall presentation (oh, hell yes, she can!). After several deep breaths to get my heart pumping again after hearing such horrid news, I asked for more details, which she provided:

I’m still in a bit of shock over the whole series of events, still looking back in hindsight thinking of all the things I wish I would have done different to change the outcome (like contacting the owner when the house was listed on ebay, or bid myself on the house and worry about the details after, or simply just not be so ambitious in returning to the site on Monday). But it is demolished.

It was bought for tear-down by a developer who is rebuilding on the site a 24 ft wide, 2 story row house. And the timing of the news article printing just after all this occurring feels quite poignant. Here’s a summary of events as I posted them for the online Lustron community a few days ago. I also put together a slideshow of demolition photos from the site.

As many of you may recall, the Lustron located at 540 Ridge Ave in Webster Groves, MO was listed by a realtor earlier this year. Several good prospects were interested in purchasing the home as their main residence. The property was in the end, however, purchased by a developer who sought out this Lustron community seeking a buyer to purchase the structure to be removed from the lot. With no offers, the home was then placed for auction on eBay with an approx 2 month window for its removal. The winning bidder began the process of disassembling the interior of the home and midway backed out of completing the removal due to the time constraints and challenges arranging for its transport.

During the last weeks on its lot, the land developer/owner was very accommodating and open to inquiries on offers to purchase for salvage items from the structure. Neighboring Lustron homeowners made him offers on the items which could be removed themselves from the structure that they were in need of for restoring their own homes, as well as the most commonly needed items requested by the general Lustron homeowner community.

The Lustron at 324 Hazel, with an expanded attached garage will be replacing its asphalt shingle garage roof with original Lustron roof tiles to complement the authenticity of the home and coordinate with the main house.
The Lustron at 330 Hazel, which was for some years a rental property, and now owner- occupied, was hoping to salvage the kitchen passthru unit. After many hours of laboring to disconnect the unit from the structure, the challenging task prevented its salvage.
Many of the original fixtures were salvaged and will find good homes with several Brentwood Lustron owners: the kitchen ceiling fixture, the utility room wall fixture, the hall sconce, the bathroom medicine cabinet, the bathroom vanity cabinet and drawers, the bathroom robe hook, the pocket door track, several inside corner wall trim pieces, the original aluminum front storm door (manufactured by Eagle Picher).

For my own Lustron, I managed to salvage both back elevation bedroom windows, all window screens and clips, the bulk of the home’s window cranks and latches, 4 square interior panels and a handful of random shelf inserts. The bad news is that we in fact had also collected and hauled all of the interior closet doors (tall and short), all of the vanity drawers, all the shelf inserts, all three interior pocket doors and nearly a full elevation of exterior panels.

On Monday, the day prior to the demolition, after two full days working til dark all feelings of a successful partial home salvage were to end. At roughly 8:30 I arrived back to the site and began working the exterior panels off the house. I had accessed the corner panel and began exterior removal roughly 4:30 Sunday, working until about 7.
At 9:30 am Monday about three quarters of the first wall were down. Then a demolition company employee arrived onsite and confronted me, suggested I stop any further work until the owner of the demo company arrived. I explained the situation and the arrangements that were made with the redeveloper/ owner, and he explained to me his perspective that this was a breech of their contract and the structure became his upon entering that contract. He firmly insisted that all the panels be returned to the site.

Stuck in the middle and wishing not to infringe on anyone else’s property rights, I agreed to do so. After a few moment’s contemplation (and angry words of disgust with the situation), he insisted on escorting me and loading all the salvaged steel items that were taken from the location into his truck. I managed to convince him to allow me one request and salvage all the closet door rollers from each door prior to dumping them. The full load of potential replacement parts that we worked to preserve were loaded into a dumpster, all bound for the steel scrap yard.

The demolition company’s view is that they own the structure and with the Lustron, they gain a profit margin from the recycled steel scrap which in turn is part of how they estimated the bid for the job to the developer. Unfortunately we assumed the developer/owner had full property rights to the salvage parts we were seeking and that was the main crux that made even a partial home salvage fail in this instance.

You and anyone else are welcome to attend that meeting, it is open to the public. It will be held the third Wednesday of November (16th) at 7:00 pm on the 2nd floor of city hall, first room on the left. And I’m going to assume further meetings will continue on the topic until they approve or deny the proposal.

FYI: the next local site I’m keeping my eyes open to is the Lustron at 224 Simmons. It also just sold on ebay for removal by December 31. (this is the third Webster Groves Lustron sold on ebay this year). The ebay item #4410237956 in case you want to look up the auction archive. Thanks again so much for your help and your reassurance that there ARE other locals out there just as concerned about the Lustrons as those of us living in them.
details of a demolished Lustron photos by toby weiss
As I griped the other day, I’m pretty much architecturally disgusted with the St. Louis area at this moment. Adding fuel to my toddler-like hissy fit is Angie’s news that the developer tore down the Lustron to build “a 24 ft wide, 2 story row house.” What?! Could that be any more inappropriate for that neighborhood? It goes from the tragic to the absurd.
While I’m, basically, throwing toys and holding my breath until I get my way, I’m thankful there are mature, dedicated and organized Lustron owners ready to fight for what’s right. Once I regain my composure, I plan to help in any way I can.

7 thoughts on “Lustron Demolished

  1. one trick that works wonders on issues like this is FOLLOW the truck to the scrapyard. let the scrapper sell the metal, and then offer your cash to the recycling center…..he can’t say anything to you because your not buying it from him, your buying it from the scrapyard. esp if you had to toss stuff you carefully preserved like this. keep in mind this around here costs 25 cents a lb(they likely got 50-100 a ton) so pick carefully and keep in mind that scrapyards want to sell it asap, if thats you,all the better for their bottom line and even better, let the people who dropped it off see the money they lost being a jerk about it.

  2. Cabinets and countertops offer the much-needed storage space in the bathroom to store your toiletries, keep medicines and first-aid box, cleaning milk, moisturizer and deodorants, towels and napkins besides other things that you use daily while showering in your bath. They are powerful accents to your bath décor and help you to define the tone and style of the bathroom wall cabinets and make the best use of the wall and floor surface of the area. .

  3. There is a Lustron House in New Orleans that is in danger of demolition. It survived Katrina and could be taken apart and moved. Please see the following exerpt from the Preservation Resource Center’s group blog. A link to photos of the house is also attached below. Thanks! -Kimberlee

    Date: Sat, 14 Jun 2008 22:20:14 +0000
    Subject: [preserveneworleans] Lustron House Update

    I have taken some photos of the Lustron house that I previously mentioned was in danger of Demolition. Lustron houses can be literally disassembled and moved from the lot if the owner would not want the house on the lot so there is no need to plow it down with a bulldozer.

    Here is a link to the photos that I took today. Thanks.

    Randall Fox

  4. My wife and I were one of the prospective buyers of the 540 Ridge home. We went through hell and high water to get financing to buy this Lustron. We were plenty qualified and pre-approved for well over the offer that was accepted…However, once the underwriter discovered that it was a “pre-fabricated” home, the bottom fell out from under us. We fought til the bitter end… we supplied mounds of research material that we collected and argued all the benefits this home has over a stick-built home. But, alas, on the very day we found a lender that would finance us for the Lustron (within hours actually) The seller accepted a LOWER offer than ours based on the fact that the buyer accepted the property AS-IS. Now we know why! He planned on junking it anyway. Needless to say, we were devistated. Like you, we even made offers (I think we agreed on $5,000) to buy the home itself…but The developer was on such a fast track, there was no way we could have taken it apart (with care) and arrange transport and storage in such a short amount of time. Such a waste!

    BTW, My wife Amanda works at the Webster Kirkwwod Times. It was our ordeal that got the news article written. It was also Amanda’s email to the Historical Preservation Committee that spurred that representative to go out to 540 Ridge that day to see for herself what was happening to our few remaining Lustrons. It still upsets me (us) to think that we were within hours of saving this beauty.

    Warm Regards,

  5. I am dismayed that “Landmarks” and other preservationist organizations get all lathered up over the imminent razing of structures of no particular significance, such as the Southside Bank building, but take no note of the loss of a Lustron.

  6. Dunno if you’ll see this or not, but I’m in the process of buying a Lustron in Kansas City MO. I plan on doing what I can to keep it original, but since it’s been a rental for the past 9 years, there are cetain aspects (the floor springs immediately to mind) that wil get chucked. I will put in a hardwood floor, and come spring will have FAG and central air installed.

    I’m thrilled that I was able to find and buy one, and an added plus is that there are two others next to me.

  7. good work toby. i know it seems like an uphill battle with boulders landing everywhere. but your ranting and raving makes a difference.

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