By Jim Smith
In 1948, the Catholic Church in Tuscumbia built or erected a new home for the Priest. He previously lived in the old School building at the corner of Hickory and 4th Street.
After it was decided to close the school, He lived for a short time in small apartment at the church which was on the corner of 4th and East St. The priest was a very private and guarded individual. There were always several nuns close by wherever he went. When He lived at the school and would walk to the church; there were always two slightly ahead of him and at least two following him. It was believed that because of his German heritage that there were (secret persons); he had to be weary of.
Regardless, the church agreed to purchase and erect the most modern thing available at the time. A LUSTRON HOUSE. It would be on East Street directly behind the Church which was on the corner of 4th and East Street.
Now this was the very latest invention in housing. It was made entirely of metal. The exterior was enamel coated steel. The rafters and joists were all steel. The interior walls were enameled in color. The appliances were all built in. All the heating was in the ceilings. There was combination dishwasher-washing machine.
The site had to be prepared to exact measurements. The water and sewer connections had to be exact as there was no room for error. It was not as easy to make adjustment as it would have been with wood.
The house would arrive on special trucks from the factory. The assembly was done by factory trained workmen. The trucks arrived and some of the components had to be lifted by a crane. In this case; it would be Mr. Kelsey’s wrecker. The pieces were stacked in the order of assembly. There boxes and boxes of nuts, bolts, and special fasteners. Each piece had its own special fastener or screw.
Perhaps I should maybe explain why I can describe all this. I lived on 4th Street; two blocks away and I delivered papers every day so I was by there at least once a day and most days I went just to watch the men as they assembled the house.
Everything was special to these houses. The cabinets were special sized and as people found later, the sizes were not the same as standard at that time. The electric wiring was installed and even the electric outlets were built in. All the wiring came precut and color-coded. All the plumbing fixtures were installed exactly like the blue prints. All the colors were factory applied. A best I can remember; this one was in their Yellow and White finish.
The windows and doors were all steel as well. The roof was guaranteed for 50 years. It seems like the house was finished in about 3 weeks. I had several small boxes of special screws that I picked up. My mother threw them away. Wish I had saved a few of them. They are sought after by owners doing repair work today.
We have tried without much success to locate or contact the current owner of this house. It sits out in a field off Woodmont Drive. Ir was moved there after the church property was sold in the 1960′s.
The company went bankrupt in the early 1950’s. It was blamed on poor management. They sold over 2000 of these homes in a short time. There are many still standing and are in beautiful condition.
It would be project but there are parts and pieces available to restore this house to near original condition. They cost $8000 to $10,000 when new. They are listed in real estate ads from $25 to 45,000. It depends where they are located.
This is another example of the treasures and surprises that exist in our beloved little town
Editor Note: The Tuscumbia Lustron House has been nominated forAlabama’s Places in Peril,Alabama’s Most Endangered Historic Places with the Alabama Historical Commission.
Here are current pictures of the Tuscumbia Luston house on Woodmont. Assembly and advertising pictures courtesy of the Luston Preservation website.