Courtesy Indiana Landmarks

In the years after World War II, the U.S. was desperately short of affordable housing, while industrial capacity was at a historic high. Conditions were ideal for a bold experiment in prefabrication, and Chicago industrialist and inventor Carl Strandlund rose to the occasion. Armed with a $12.5 million government-backed loan, Strandlund retooled a 23-acre aircraft plant in Columbus, Ohio, and began producing an all-steel home he dubbed the Lustron.

The Lustron’s defining feature was a high-temperature porcelain enamel finish that could be wiped clean with a damp cloth on the inside, and hosed down like a car on the outside. The space-saving design included interior pocket doors, built-in cabinets, and an innovative whole-house radiant heating system that warmed the living space by...

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