News and Event Updates from the Office of the Orange County Historian

The House America Is Talking About
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.

These are the seven Lustron homes identified in Orange County. The top two are on Roosevelt Avenue in Middletown, the third is on Riverview Road in Highland Falls and the four on the bottom are on Hampton Place in Newburgh. The four in Newburgh have been covered in traditional siding but the distinctive roofs are visible. 
Overbrook Farm
Historic Property for Rent
Eighteen century stone house surrounded by majestic oak trees
and County Parklands

Rustic but beautiful private setting and two minutes to shopping and major roadways, Updated boiler and electrical service, Newburgh Schools                              

First Floor -Country Kitchen, Dining Room, Living Room, Bath
Second Floor -Two Bedrooms
Finished Attic, Unfinished Basement
Oil-fired Hot Water Baseboard Heat, No Garage
No operating fireplaces
No animals permitted
$1,000.00 per month plus utilities and security.
Please contact Eric Ruscher by email or 845-291-2491
PDF of property information          
Community Updates
As an event offered by the Historical Society of Newburgh Bay & the Highlands during the Hudson River Valley Ramble festival, a group of History Hikers joined professor Evan Prichard to see the sites associated with the Native Americas who lived at Kowawese during the period of European contact. According to Prichard's research, the area later named Plum Point, was an important trading post for Native populations as far back as 1,000 B.C.E and to European settlers such as Patrick MacGregorie who built his home there in 1685. The riverfront at Kowawese is open to the public as a park.
Upcoming Events, Training & Conferences
In Their Own Words - The Battle of Fort Montgomery

Saturday, Sept 30 from 10AM to 12PM

Come for a unique, extended tour of one of the Hudson Valley's most dramatic battle sites. Drawing mainly on 1st hand accounts and archaeological data, this ramble will bring to life the Revolutionary War attack on Fort Montgomery using the words of the soldiers who were there. Program will last 2 hours and include rarely visited spots of the battlefield and conclude with a musket firing demonstration. *Ramblers welcome to bring a bag lunch. Registration required, please email or call 845-446-2134

690 Route 9W
Fort Montgomery, NY 10922
Anatomy of a Traitor

Thursday, October 5th from 7PM to 8PM

Witness a dramatic portrayal of one of the American Revolution's most intriguing figures: Major General Benedict Arnold! Hear Arnold's grievances and his views on treason aired by historian Gary Petagine. An audience Q and A session will follow this exciting performance.

Email or call 845-446-2134 for more info.

690 Route 9W
Fort Montgomery, NY 10922
Twin Forts Day

Saturday, October 7th from 10AM to 4PM
Join us to commemorate the 240th Anniversary of this bloody battle. Reenactors are portraying the American Continentals and militia as well as British and Loyalist Americans. There will be a reenactment of the battle on the actual battlefield of Fort Montgomery at 3PM including cannon firings and living history throughout the day.

Email or call 845-446-2134 for more info.

690 Route 9W
Fort Montgomery, NY 10922
Documentary on the history and restoration of Rest Haven

Saturday, October 7th from 1PM to 2PM
The Monroe Historical Society will present a special program with the premiere of a documentary on the history of "Rest Haven." Rest haven served as a summer home for blind women from 1923 to 1968.

Town of Monroe Arts and Civic Center
34 Millpond Parkway
Monroe, NY 10950
Write 18th Century Style at Washington's Headquarters

Sunday, October 7 and 8, at 2PM each day

With original documents as your guide, create your own 18th century style letter using a quill pen, just as General Washington's aides-de-camp did while at Headquarters Newburgh. This all-ages quill pen writing workshop will be held at Washington's Headquarters State Historic Site. Call (845) 562-1195 for more information.

99 Liberty Street
Newburgh, NY 12550
A Taste of History at Museum Village

Saturday, October 7th and Sunday, October 8th from 11AM to 4PM each day

Come taste delicious corn cakes made right on the hearth at Museum Village during Columbus Day weekend. Buildings will be open with costumed interpreters ready to give demonstrations. Check out Mid-Hudson Historic Destinations for more local sites taking part in the Taste of History program weekend.

1010 State Route 17M
Monroe, NY 10950
Living History Day at Hathorn House

Saturday, October 7th from 12PM to 3PM

Friends of the Hathorn House will honor the legacy of General John Hathorn and his militia on the lawn at his historic home. Celebrate the ongoing restoration of his home and speak with homeowners Sylwia Kubasiak and Arek Kwapinski who will graciously host our volunteers to demonstrate aspects of life in the Warwick Valley during the Revolutionary War.

21 Hathorn Road
Warwick, NY 10990
World War I Teacher Workshop A Spirit of Sacrifice: New York State in the First World War

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Free for teachers

Join us on Thursday, November 9 for a one-day World War I teacher workshop. 

This free workshop is offered by the staff of the New York State Museum, State Library, State Archives, and Public Broadcasting Office at the Cultural Education Center in Albany, NY. The workshop is designed to aid educators in teaching the history of World War I.

With hands-on learning, presentations, guided tours, and break out discussions, participants will learn about the history of the war through the current A Spirit of Sacrifice: New York State in the First World War exhibition at the State Museum and learn how to apply that knowledge in the classroom. Participants will also develop an understanding of the educational resources available at the Cultural Education Center (CEC), including the State Museum, State Library, State Archives, and Public Broadcasting Office. Participants will expand on the information and tools given to them throughout the workshop during brainstorming and development sessions, where they can gain CEC staff insight as well as fellow educators opinions. 

*Note: The New York State Museum is an approved provider of Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE). If you are employed in a New York State school, your employing district approves all professional development activities to accrue towards your continuing professional development requirement. 

Eligibility: Teachers of Social Studies 

Applications are due November 3, 2017. The number of participants is limited to 30.
Teacher CTLE Credit: 7.5 CTLE hours

Cost: Free; participants are responsible for providing their own lunch

Orange County Historian | Goshen, N.Y. |  845-545-7908 |  jyaun