Steel House Gets a New Home

Oct 20, 2017

The historic LeTourneau steel house from the Komatsu plant has a new address.

It was trucked to the Wheels O’ Time Museum Wednesday and lowered onto its new foundation Thursday.

 


A high powered hydraulic jack and skilled workmen gently lowered the 24x24 foot steel house onto its resting place.

It’s primed and ready for a new coat of paint after significant restoration efforts at George Young and Sons.

There are several steel houses that remain in the area. But this one never left the factory where it was built, that has since become Komatsu.

Industrialist Robert LeTourneau manufactured a limited number of the small homes in Peoria starting in the late 1930’s. It was used as housing for his employees after The Great Depression and the so-called Carefree Homes offered resilience against a variety of elements.

Mark Johnson is coordinating The Steel House Revival project. “It was men like LeTourneau that had a vision of things they could do, things they could accomplish that did allow the community grow into what it has become.” Johnson says that’s the first reason the group is preserving the house.

 

Credit Cass Herrington / Peoria Public Radio

But it’s also because the homes have some unique characteristics that don’t stop with the windows at the corners.  The LeTourneau houses could be floated down the Illinois River and moved by a crane with the industrial handles on its the sides and roof.

But production was ceased during World War II because of limited steel supplies. That made the time-worn house that remained at Komatsu a special piece of Peoria history.

Marcia Johnson is the Wheels O’ Time Museum site manager. She says they are happy to have the steel house. “ Industrial history in Peoria is very important to us. It’s something we really try to stress and do. And this is just one more piece of it that fits into the puzzle beautifully.”

The house could still get a coat of paint this fall. Marcia Johnson says it also still needs to be furnished.

The Steel House Revival effort was initiated by a collaborative group of philanthropic people. Project Manager Mark Johnson says most of those still working on the project are retirees. “We all have a few extra hours we can find to devote to something and everybody has been so good-natured and so helpful and so willing to pitch in, that it’s really been a fun project. Because we’ve all met new people and made new friends.”

The Steel House Revival project is being funded with donations, which they are still accepting. The effort is being and carried forward by the Wheels O’ Time Museum, Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation and Peoria Historical Society.

The Steel LeTourneau House is expected to be open next May at Wheels O’ Time Museum.