It is estimated that about 2,680 Lustrons were built between 1948 and 1950. Of those, it is estimated that only 1200 survive. These remaining Lustrons face a variety of threats; most prevalent are demolition, deferred maintenance and unsympathetic alteration. Since the historic preservation movement began in the United States, citizen activists have played a key role in ensuring historic resources are protected for future generations.Whether you are a Lustron owner, a preservation professional or just a concerned citizen, your help is need to save the remaining Lustrons for future generations.One of the best ways to protect Lustrons is through National Register listing or through a Local Landmark Designation program. It is important to note that National Register listing provides a property with no protection against privately funded actions and only limited protection against publicly funded projects. Local designation protection varies depending on the local ordinance. For more information on National Register listing and local landmark designation visit the Landmark Your Lustron section of Help for Lustrons.
Local designation and National Register listing are certainly not the only advocacy tools; in fact advocacy battles are often waged over buildings that have no formal recognition or protection. There are many ways to protect Lustrons, they range from education to legislation. The best way to protect Lustrons is to prevent them from being threatened in the first place. The best way to do this is through education and advocacy. Most importantly, be proactive. The best way to save a building is to not let it get threatened in the first place. Below you will find a list of advocacy tips and strategies that you can use to help preserve and protect, the few, the proud, the Lustrons for future generations.
1. Knowledge is Power
The best advocate is an informed advocate. Explore the website to learn more about the Lustron History, the Post-war Housing Crisis and Carl Strandlund. Find other Lustrons in Your Community using the Lustron Locator or visit the Lustron Library to read up on all things Lustron. Skip on over to Landmark Your Lustron to learn about the various levels of designation and what they mean.
2. Spread the Word About Lustron’s Significance
Now that you know all about Lustrons, spread the word! Although the information about Lustrons available in past years has increased dramatically, many people are still not yet aware of the fascinating history of these quirky little houses. The average person on the street might have no-inkling how truly rare these houses are. To put it in perspective, according to the 2000 US Census, there were 115.9 million houses in the United States. This means that for almost every 1000 residences, there is only one Lustron. Lustron’s represent less than 1/10 of 1% of the US housing stock. If you have one or more Lustron(s) in your community or a dozen, let owners and other community members know they are important and rare!
Write an article about Lustron’s for your community paper. If you live in a larger community, call the newspaper and see if they might be interested in doing a feature on Lustrons
3. Introduce Yourself to Lustron Owners
Informed Lustron owners and aficionados make good advocates. If you are in the habit of going out and tracking down Lustrons, when you are out-and-about, introduce yourself to the owners. Perhaps they are proud owners of their Lustron home, perhaps they don’t know much about Lustron, direct them to this website. Check to see if their Lustron is included in the Locator and that the entry is up-to-date. Offer to be a resource.
4. Keep an Eye Out
It is hard to prevent demolition if you don’t know it is going to happen. People are often surprised to learn that a favorite building is threatened, or has been demolished. Unfortunately, these surprise demolitions are not often surprise. They often missed the tell-tale clues that a demolition is imminent. Here are some clues to keep an eye out for:
- The property is vacant. This is the first sign that the Lustron might be in danger.
- The property is on the market. Don’t assume that the new owners will appreciate the Lustron as much as you do. New owners might have their eye on the lot as the place for their new dream home, which of course requires the removal of the Lustron on the site.
- The owners have passed-away. Many Lustrons are still owned by the first or second owners. When they pass-away the heirs might decide that they no longer want the home, that the land will be more valuable if the lot is cleared, or that the house needs to be “updated” to make it more marketable.
- The property is in a transitional neighborhood. Perhaps the once residential boulevard is now largely commercial and the little Lustron is sitting on prime commercial property.
- Escalating property values, is the land more valuable than the property on it?
- The teardown trend? Are existing residences being demolished to make way for larger, contemporary houses? For more information on the Teardown Trend and to view the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Resource Guide, click here.
When in doubt, contact the owner or realtor to find out the status of the Lustron.
5. Identify the Threat
Perhaps you have been keeping a trained eye out for Lustrons in trouble, and now you have found one that is threatened. The next step is to identify the threat then to learn what measures might be in place to protect the Lustron such as local landmark designation or zoning. Launching a successful advocacy effort will depend on understanding the nature of the threat and what protections may already be in place. Below you will find a list of types of threats and a series of questions which will help you build a successful advocacy campaign.
So let say that you discover that the Lustron is threatened with demolition? Because most Lustrons are privately owned, preventing demolition can be a challenge, especially if the demolition permit has been issued. But here are some questions to answer.
- Find out if the demolition permit has been issued. If not, what is the timetable for it being issued? What sort of review process is required? If the permit has been issued, find out the timetable for the demolition, if there are any provisions to halt demolition.
- Find out what will replace it. potential replacement development
- Will it meet current zoning?
- Is this genuinely best site?
- What investment will it generate?
- Determine sources of financing for demolition and new construction
- Are public dollars involved?
- Is private financing secured?
- What is source of private financing?
- Identify any needed local, state, and/or federal permits.
- How much will demolition cost?
- Check compliance with existing municipal codes. Is there a code which requires a certain level of maintenance?
- Review owner’s record with other property.
- Review owner’s property tax record for this property.
- Is there a neighborhood organization or city agency that could work with the owner?
Designation: Is the Building Locally Designated or Listed on the National Register of Historic Places?
Is the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places? Generally speaking, listing on the National Register of Historic Places offers no protection for actions taken by private owners when no federal funds or permits are involved. However, it can be a useful advocacy tool. To learn more about National Register listing click here.
Is the building protected by a local historic preservation ordinance? In smaller communities this information can often be obtained by your city clerk, in larger communities, you can contact your department of planning. To learn more about local designation click here.
What is the current zoning?
Zoning refers to a set of regulations control the use of land within a jurisdiction. They typically specify the areas in which residential, industrial, recreational or commercial activities may take place. For example, an R-1 residential zone might allow only single-family detached homes as opposed to duplexes or apartment complexes.
Current or prospective owners might have visions of demolishing the Lustron and replacing it with a larger home, a multi-family home or a commercial building. Perhaps this new use will not be possible because of current zoning. Contact your city, village or town, hall and they will direct you to the appropriate department. Find out the procedures for obtaining a zoning variance, which would allow the owners an exception to the current zoning. Many communities now post zoning ordinances, maps and procedures for variances on-line.
- Is the new use within the allowable zoning? Will a zoning variance be required?
- If it is a change of use, or if the new proposed building is much larger than the Lustron, evaluate impact of the on neighborhood
6. Identify Partners
Is there a historic preservation commission in your community? A preservation advocacy group? A statewide preservation organization? An Old House appreciation society? Can they assist in your efforts to save the Lustron? Sometimes, owners are less likely to demolish a structure once they know more about it. Many Lustron owners are surprised to learn how significant their houses are. The National Trust for Historic Preservation can help you identify statewide and local partners that could assist. To find your National Trust Regional Office, click here.
7. What is the Desired Outcome? What Alternatives Exist?
What is your desired outcome? What are the alternatives to demolition? Do you want to prevent demolition? Buy it and restore it? Move it? Raise awareness of the importance of Lustrons? Document the building before it is demolished? Secure salvage rights? Raise awareness and protect other Lustrons in the community?
8. Who’s Who and Who Needs to Do What?
It is always important to have a realistic view of what you may be up against. If you have less than a week to stop the demolition of the last Lustron in your community and the community that has no history of support for preservation, it might be a tougher battle. Remember that there will be some people, that no matter what you do or say, will never support the cause. A successful advocacy effort doesn’t require that everyone support your cause, rather it means that those who are making the decisions about the property (the key stakeholders) need to be convinced. Having a clear idea of what needs to happen and when is also critical to success.
Who cares? Who needs to care?
- Who decides what happens to the Lustron? Who are the key stakeholders? City Council? The Department of Planning? The Owner?
- Is there organizational support for preservation? Is there a local historical society? Historic Preservation Commission? Local Preservation Organization? Statewide Preservation Organization?
- Is their neighborhood support? Do the neighbors want to save the Lustron?
- Community support for preservation. Does the larger community support saving the Lustron?
- Is there business. media, or government support for preservation of the Lustron?
- Who needs to be convinced that the Lustron is worth saving? Can they be?
What can be done to raise awareness generate publicity, interest and support?
- Create a Scrapbook for the Endangered Lustron. Make sure to put the word endangered in the Scrapbook Title.
- Make Sure that it is in the Luston Locator, make sure to check the box for threatened.
- Bumper stickers, signs, petitions, getting articles placed in the local paper, ads, vigils are a few of the multitude of ways to engage the public.
What needs to happen? Is there time?
- What permits are required to demolish the Lustron?
- If the Lustron is being demolished to make way for a new structure, what permits are required? Is the financing in place?
- What is the timeline for the review process?
- Who does the review?
9. Make a Plan
What needs to happen to prevent demolition? Who is going to do it? When? What are alternatives? What is your publicity plan (see #9)? Talking points (see #10)?
10. Prepare to negotiate, and do it.
- What is your plan for success?
- What is the best outcome? What is the worst outcome? What is a win-win situation.
- Prepare “talking points” what is important about the Lustron? Why should it be saved? What can be done to save it?
- Where are you willing to compromise. Rank your levels of compromise. Start at the top (least amount of compromise) and, if necessary, work your way down.
- Determine if there are economic advantages to saving the Lustron?
- Select a point person for negotiating with your key stakeholders (see #8).
- Keep calm.
- Listen to the stakeholders’ interests? What is their desired outcome? Are they willing to compromise? Can there be a win-win situation? Remember that you want to give them options.
- Be flexible and courteous. If the Lustron can’t be saved, you still might want to document it or salvage parts.
11. The Next Steps.
- Were your efforts successful? Promote and publicize them, recognize the efforts of all those involved. Use this win to promote other preservation activities
- Were your efforts not so successful? Is the Lustron coming down? Can it be documented before it is demolished? Can it be moved? Can it be disassembled? Can parts be salvaged? If the parts can be salvaged, be sure to let other owners know, visit the Lustron Lounge to get in touch with other owners looking for parts. Be sure to update the Lustron Locator with the sad news.
- Do a post-mortem? What worked, what did not? What was learned that can be applied to future advocacy efforts. Can this battle be used to generate interest in preserving and protecting other Lustrons?
- If there are other Lustrons in your community, work to develop a plan to preserve and protect these Lustrons.