10/11/17 7:30am

Article written by Orange County Historian Johanna Yaun

Almost 70 years later, a few still stand in Orange County

Many people have heard of the pre-fab homes that Sears, Roebuck and Company produced between 1908-1940. Sears offered 370 models and over 70,000 were built across the nation. Many of these homes are still standing around Orange County but they are difficult to spot because they used conventional balloon-framing techniques and materials in their kits. But, our local architectural variety includes another story of a pre-fab housing solution from the 20th century that is less familiar.

For a short two years, from 1948 to 1950, the Lustron Corporation created pre-fabricated enameled steel homes that were advertised as low maintenance and affordable.

The idea began with a Chicago inventor named Carl Strandlund who, in response to the post-World War II housing storage, created a division of the Chicago Vitreous Enamel Corporation to construct homes in a Columbus, Ohio factory. They planned to construct over 45,000 homes but only 2,498 homes were completed. Although they had orders for over 8,000 more units, after only 20 months of operation, the company closed its doors and 800 employees were laid off. The closure was due to failing to repay a 12.5 million Federal agency Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) loan that was borrowed to begin production. The Lustron Corp. was selling the homes at a low cost between $6,000-$10,000 per unit and the company was losing money on each order. Although the cost seems inexpensive, the Lustron homes were sold through a dealership system similar to automobiles distribution which meant the dealers had to cover the initial costs of purchasing lots, pouring concrete slabs and running utility lines. The final home purchaser would be paying around $11,000 to acquire the completed property which was considerably more than buying a typical wood frame house at the time.

The architectural prototype was created in collaboration with architects Roy Burton Blass and Morris H. Beckman as a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom home made of steel framing. The exposed steel on the interior walls and roof had a porcelain-enamel finish. The manufacture of each home required 12 tons of steel and 1 ton of enamel. The customer could choose the colors from a number of options including pink, tan, yellow, aqua, blue, green and gray on the exterior and beige or gray for the interior. The 3,000 pre-made parts would be carried on a truck and assembled on a concrete slab.

The homes were designed to use space effectively. Every room had built-ins which accounted for over 20% of the home’s square footage. The bedroom had a vanity, the dining room had a buffet and pocket doors throughout the home eliminated the need to allocate space for a swinging door. One futuristic luxury that was included in every home was a built-in washing machine that with the addition of a rack could do double-duty as a dishwasher.

A few months ago I was alerted to the existence of some of these gems, two in Middletown and one in Highland Falls. After a bit of commentary from the Facebook community on the Orange County History and Heritage page, a follower pointed out a street in Newburgh that featured a cul-de-sac with four Lustron homes. Please let us know if you know of any more in the area because the Preservation League of New York is compiling an inventory for their records.

12/09/15 7:30am

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The Newburgh Historical Society’s annual Candlelight Tour features a dozen decorated homes including a diverse assortment of public and private spaces – mansions, structures in the rehabilitation process, new construction, architectural gems, and some of Newburgh’s most important landmarks. For years, community members within the second largest historic district in New York State have generously decorated and opened their homes to visitors in support of local history. The 1830 Captain David Crawford House, located at 189 Montgomery St., Newburgh is the starting place for the Tour.

December 13, 2015, 12 PM – 5 PM

For tickets and details click here.

-Photo Matthew Colon, Director of the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay and the Highlands

05/26/15 7:30am

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After 4 years of being vacant and going on the market in March, a new family is moving into 164 Grand! This house has amazing historic details that the new owners plan to maintain. Yes, they are from Brooklyn, but Julie is French Canadian and her husband is Danish. They have been gracious enough to share the details of their home and the work they are planning to do. You can see a cherry picker above fixing their original slate roof.

“The roof needed fixing (that’s actually already done) and the 2-story porch in the back needs to be re-done. Inside, it’s mostly minor cosmetic work. Everything that is original to the house and not broken will stay as is. Later additions (we believe some of the wallpaper was put up in the 90’s and we will be replacing some of it). And there are a few broken windows which need replacing, including 2 of the round windows in the bay window.”

Enjoy the photos and remember, there are plenty of other homes like this in Newburgh waiting to be preserved (large and small). Restoring a house and want to share your journey? Email me, newburghrestoration@gmail.com

11350615_10153312930638745_2636682198378808689_n One of 3 sets of original pocket doors

164 Collage 1 Built-ins galore. Marble sink and original built-ins adjacent to bedroom and Butler’s pantry seen from dining room.

19389_10153312930838745_3148300247376356973_nBeautiful and amazingly sturdy staircase. In incredible condition given that the house has been vacant for 4 years.

164 Collage 2 1877 flush toilet, possibly one of the earliest in the US, found in a small room in the basement and was presumably used by the servants.

22300_10153312930543745_5221863460194155267_n One of the many original gas lamps. This one, however, is the only one that still has its shade.

11225447_10153312930703745_98911655357661236_n Old thermostat.

10411115_10153316881253745_5792006003755372005_n Copper sink in butler’s pantry.

11209363_10153316616008745_1307130407666279687_n Pocket door key.

164 Collage 3 Detail of one of 4 wood burning fireplaces. Each fireplace has a different design and different tiles around.

11067767_10153312996143745_4057217746255851266_n More fireplace details.

164 Collage 4

11051216_10153316615778745_3468294134275075110_n Those floors and tiles!

164 Collage 5 Back of the house with a 2 story porch that will eventually need to be redone.

11165266_10153312930973745_1739928530877592273_n 19th century walk-in closet with built-ins.

10245295_10153312996058745_6886304251970770315_n Wainscoting details.

03/11/15 7:30am

 

420 Grand Newburgh

More exciting news for another Newburgh mansion that is in need of repair, 420 Grand has sold to a couple from Brooklyn. The minute I laid eyes on this house I knew it would be perfect for the New York Social Diary. Fortunately the writer, John Foreman, thought the same, and it was featured in May 2014. Mr. Foreman really dug in to the history and took many detailed photographs if you want to see the inside. One of the most intriguing details of this home is a supposed connection to the Astor family which may, or may not be true.

When the house was first featured here, we all agreed the house has Royal Tenenbaums/Wes Anderson vibe. Everything from the kitchen to the 50’s bathrooms are amazing. Loads of wood work, fireplaces, sconces, wallpaper and more. As for now, I have no idea what plans the couple has for the home. It is immensely exciting and fulfilling to see that another Grand St beauty has found owners just like the Monell Mansion.

Now if we could only find someone to buy 4 Grand and the Arno…hmm.

A few more photos for fun:

01/05/15 7:30am

new Monell Mansion

The new owners of 288 Grand are super excited to have finally closed on their home after many hiccups along the way. Gregory shares these words regarding his experience:

“An “Oil” spill delayed our September closing, and title issues were also found. But we stuck to our guns and now 288 Grand is ours. The whole team at City of Newburgh Office was amazing. Super helpful, understanding and caring.

As you know there is a long road ahead with the restoration. But I have my two best workers by my side and we can tackle all of it!

We closed Dec 18th, just in time for everyone/contractors to be on break! I am chomping at the bit to get started! I even dragged Patrick and Jack up on the 26th to just have a front yard clean up day. See attached photo.

First task is clean the place out! Its full of Junk! Dumpster arrives next week. Next repair the roof, and gutters and windows. Work should start Mid Jan.  Once we are weather sealed, the interior work will begin!”

The new family also wants to give the mansion a new name to breathe fresh life into the home and the block. That will be the way we refer to the Monell mansion in future posts. If you are interested in being their neighbor, the home across the street, 287 Grand, just dropped even lower to $42,900. It would be a great way to start to turn this section of Grand around again into more owner-occupied homes.

12/29/14 7:30am

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Here is a rare look inside a recently updated Newburgh home. This is the new residence of Markus Hartel and Bridget Hayes, new Newburghers from NYC. You might remember this home from past posts. Just a few years ago this home was a complete shell. It was totally renovated then put on the market. Markus and Bridget have done many upgrades that they have fortunately decided to share.

– Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Germany, but have lived in Manhattan for the past 12 years, Bridget has lived in NYC for the past 20 years with a short stint in LA

– How did you find Newburgh?

Last year, during X-mas, we vacationed in the Catskills at a friend’s cabin and spent New Years in New Paltz, and I joked around that I could live in a town like this, with close proximity to the city. Bridget came across an article about Newburgh in a local paper and we started doing our research. We also looked at a couple of other places, but went back to Newburgh and we found the house on 267 Liberty Street for sale in February. We immediately fell in love with the place, and also looked at a few other properties in the historic district, but we kept going back to 267… We closed early June and started renovations in mid July.

– Why did fall in love with this home and what work have you done?

We love the historic exterior accompanied by the modern interior, which we tried to keep coherent and adequate to the history and location… Our house was a burnt out shell at some point, and the previous owner had built a new interior with a modern, spacious layout, which appealed to us. With that also came new electric, plumbing and central air. Also, the (half) basement is finished, which was a big factor in our decision, as I work mostly from home, and the basement is now my studio/workshop (I work as a graphic designer & photographer).

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Essentially, we have reworked the entire interior, and while it had a solid core, the detail work was either non-existent, or builder’s grade, as the previous owner turned the house into a rental before we took ownership…
At first, we thought, we would do everything piece by piece, but our workload and busy schedules would turn our house into a decade long construction zone and we decided to invest our life savings into this house. We have designed everything ourselves with some guidance from or awesome contractor’s team.

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First, we ripped out the entire kitchen – I was stumped by the washer and dryer tucked into a corner by the window, which was an utter eye sore and we moved everything into a dedicated laundry closet.

The kitchen now has solid cabinets, a farmhouse sink, and a soapstone counter top with drain grooves. We decided on a beadboard backsplash, as we couldn’t settle on a tile that didn’t compete with the gorgeous soapstone.  The island sports a wine fridge, and a reclaimed wood countertop from a 1860’s Jersey church and we have decided on a carrera marble inset (I enjoy making pizza and bread in my spare time).

Dining Collage

The dining room table and benches are made from the same antique wood as the island counter top. I’m also in the process of creating a light fixture from a reclaimed wooden beam (sourced from Newburgh by After The Barn) for the dining room, pretty much the only light fixture that’s missing…

We have replaced all the doors with solid three panel shaker style doors, which were hollow core before, and equipped them with style appropriate hardware… We created craftsmen style moldings all around the doors, windows, baseboards, ceilings etc. We also replaced the tin baseboard heater covers on the first and second floor with solid aluminum shaker style covers.

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We gutted the master bathroom, and it now has a custom full glass panel shower, 12” subway tile with metallic décor inlays, and period appropriate hardware. We also discovered the brick from an old chimney on the second and third floor and decided to expose the brick, which adds a lot of warmth and character, and ties in the inside with the ca. 1880’s exterior nicely.

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We replaced the 3rd floor carpets with hardwood floors, which we stained white, and it gives the 3rd floor a very lofty feel. We refinished the 1st and 2nd floor hardwood floors and stained them dark ebony, which creates a stark contrast to the white moldings.

We also added recessed lights and ceiling speakers on the 1st and 2nd floor.

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We remodeled the master bathroom, and we created closets in the master bedroom and in the basement. We also created a closed coat closet under the staircase on the first floor.

267 Liberty Collage

The only thing untouched, besides paint and doors, is the 3rd floor guest bathroom and the basement bathroom… The powder room on the first floor by the kitchen has a reclaimed wood counter top with a porcelain bowl and I have created the wallpaper, piece by piece, from type specimen books.

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Early during the renovation process we detected water in the basement due to a leaking foundation, and we addressed the issue by sealing the foundation from the outside. To prevent future issues we laid ceramic tile in the basement and replaced the moldy sheetrock with water resistant material.

Thanks to Sal’s Contracting for the quality work and to After The Barn for the awesome kitchen counter and dining room table and M. Teixeira Soapstone.

Thank you Markus and Bridget for sharing your home! If you’d like to share renovations done to your own home, email me.