FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- Looking for a home with a lot of history and built-in features that requires very little maintenance?
Has a Fort Wayne couple got a steal for you.
Actually, make that steel - as in the all-metal Lustron house at 316 W. Fleming St. they have owned for the past nine years.
"We wanted something unique. This house is kind of cool and I couldn't afford a Ferrari," Jared Sickafoose said as he stood in the living room of the 1,096-square-foot, two-bedroom house that is one of just seven remaining local examples of the 2,500 prefabricated homes erected nationwide to ease the post-World War II housing shortage.
The 30-year-old Sickafoose and wife Karina, 32, still love the house but want more room in which to raise their two young children. The way they see it, their move represents the perfect opportunity for someone willing to appreciate features most potential buyers might consider just a bit, well, quirky.
People whose refrigerators have no more room for magnet-supported school artwork, photos, calendars and other doodads would love the Lustron, where everything from the roof to the walls to the kitchen cabinets to the built-in bedroom vanity is made of steel. The brainchild of Chicago businessman Carl Strandlund, Lustrons were produced in a nine-mile-long former aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio, between 1946. Offered in various one- and two-bedroom models for between $10,000 and $12,000, about 20,000 were ordered.
But less than 2,500 were delivered before the company went broke in 1950, despite the $23 million in loans he secured to create it.
"This is affordable luxury," Realtor Brad Noll of the North Eastern Group told The News-Sentinel (http://bit.ly/W5uoUd ). He plans to stress the home's history and uniquely low-maintenance features in his sales campaign. Who wouldn't want a house impervious to fire and termites?
With the exception of the bathroom, the house retains most of its original characteristics. Listed at $71,900, it has a large yard and oversized garage, which Noll said helps explains the cost difference with a similar Lustron on Webster Street that sold recently after being listed at $22,900.
Karina's college architectural training gives her an aesthetic appreciation for the house's character, but she also appreciates its practicality.
"We didn't have to buy dressers or put any holes in the walls," she said, pointing to the magnetized children's doodads and utensils that still hang in the kitchen and living room.
Noll suspects the law of supply and demand should work in the home's favor. Not only are there one-third fewer houses available in Fort Wayne today than there were in 2004, he said, but there is also one fewer Lustron house than there was just a few years ago.
In 2009, Ohio contractor Don Smith bought a Lustron near West Jefferson Boulevard and Aboite Center Road, then disassembled it with the intention of rebuilding it as a retirement home for his mother. The house was on land cleared for development of a medical park that still has not been built.
No such fate seems in store for the city's remaining Lustrons, however, which pleases the Sickafooses and the cult of devotees Lustrons have attracted over the years.
"You just can't buy anything like this for the money," Jared Sickafoose said.