2003: The owner of the Harold Hess Lustron House in Closter has announced plans to demolish the house and subdivide the property into two lots. The Closter HPC has applied for local designation of the Hess House, against the owner’s wishes.
2/2004: The owner of the Harold Hess Lustron House has agreed to fund relocation of the Hess House, and has given the Closter Borough Council six months to find a location. The Council recently denied local designation of the house. (plans never moved forward)
5/2009: The owner of the Harold Hess Lustron House in Closter has again requested variances to subdivide the lot on which the house sits into three parcels, agreeing to preserve the house on the center parcel if permitted to subdivide.
9/2009: The owner of the Harold Hess Lustron has revised his proposal to subdivide the Hess House parcel into only two, instead of three, lots.
5/2013: The Harold Hess Lustron is threatened again. Now owned by someone who indicates they bought it “as an investment,” the house is currently up for sale with no protection. The Closter HPC is again pursuing local designation, against the owner’s wishes.
Lustron houses are ranch-style houses prefabricated of porcelain-enameled steel components, manufactured according to Fordist principles of mass production, marketed through an automobile-style dealer system to individual consumers, and erected on site. Although similar concepts had been developed earlier, the Lustron was the first all-metal prefabricated structure for individual homebuyers to be produced in large numbers. Between 1946 and 1950, the Lustron Corporation shipped approximately 2,500 Lustrons to consumers in 35 states. 2498 Lustrons were constructed between1946-1950; 16 have been identified in New Jersey. These include the Harold Hess House in Closter (listed on the National Register in 2000) and the Hiorth House in Alpine.
The mass-produced nature of the Lustron was particularly relevant to answering the need for massive amounts of housing for WWII veterans.
Although preservationists have defined the Lustron house as having historical significance in terms of its association with the post-war housing shortage and as an exemplary type of prefabricated housing, many of these houses remain unacknowledged as historic resources and are destroyed each year (Michelle Anne Boyd, Preserving the Lustron House: Authenticity and Industrial Production, Thesis for the Master of Science degree in Historic Preservation, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, 2001.).