- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

QUANTICO, Va. (AP) — The Quantico Marine Corps base is offering free steel-paneled homes to anyone who can disassemble them and haul them away.

The 58 prefabricated Lustron homes were part of a short-lived attempt in the late 1940s to solve the post-World War II housing shortage. Quantico’s collection is thought to be among the world’s largest.

“These are examples of our country’s recent past,” said Bereket Selassie of Clark Realty Capital, which is handling the giveaway. “They are something people want to see an effort to preserve.”

Two Lustron homes will be kept on base and preserved.

“Housing is a huge retention issue for the military,” Mr. Selassie said.

While the 900- and 1,000-square-foot Lustrons were adequate in the late 1940s, they’re too small for today’s families, he said.

The Lustrons, along with much of the rest of Quantico’s base housing, will be replaced by 1,800-square-foot houses.

Applications for the first batch of 23 Lustrons are due April 12 and will be awarded in May.

The new Lustron owners will have the month of July to take the houses apart and move them. The rest of the houses will be made available next year.

“We want to give them to people who want to live in them rather than sell them for scrap metal,” Mr. Selassie said.

Mr. Selassie said they have gotten hundreds of phone calls from people inquiring about the houses.

Because they are mostly steel, they are of particular interest to people with severe and multiple allergies.

When reviewing the applications, preference will be given to those wishing to relocate a number of Lustrons to establish a neighborhood, those wanting to use them for hurricane victims, and those that would keep the Lustrons in Prince William County.

Lustron lovers have been buzzing about the giveaway since it was announced last month. The unique little pastel-colored homes have a strong following.

Two books have been written and a documentary made about them.

There also are several Web sites and a Yahoo chat group devoted to the homes. The feasibility of acquiring a Quantico Lustron is being much debated in Lustron circles.

Colin Strayer, a Lustron expert, warns those longing for a Quantico Lustron to be realistic.

“It cannot be stressed enough that acquiring something ‘for free’ is merely the beginning of a very long, involved and often costly project,” Mr. Strayer wrote in a Lustron chat group posting.

Estimates range from $65,000 to $125,000 to disassemble and move the houses.

Plus, Clark Realty Capital is requiring a $15,000 refundable deposit placed on each house to ensure that it is moved within the time frame.

And that doesn’t include the cost of buying land on which to put the Lustrons.

Lustron purists might also be disappointed to learn that the Quantico collection has been altered from the original condition.

The porcelain-enameled steel panels have been painted inside and out, and a 1982 renovation project changed some of the interiors.

“But basically they are still Lustrons and worth saving,” said Alex James, who worked in the Ohio Lustron assembly plant and has written a book about the homes.

Marine Sgt. Michael Carroll and his wife, Michele, said they were a bit surprised at all the attention being given to their little steel house, which is well worn after being occupied by countless Marine families.

“I can say one thing for it: We can hang our son’s art anywhere we want,” Sgt. Carroll said.

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