Preservationists Join Forces to Restore LeTourneau's All-Steel House

Jan 9, 2017

A peculiar steel structure designed by the late inventor Robert Gilmore LeTourneau is getting a facelift and a new permanent home. 

The so-called “Carefree Home” was built in the 1930s to address a shortage of affordable housing, following the Great Depression. LeTourneau touted his all-steel homes for their enduring design and a rare added bonus: the homes can float.  

“I don’t know how you could tie it into an architectural style. It’s really industrial, isn’t it?," John Parks, a Peoria Historical Society board trustee, said. "He [LeTourneau] tried to add some decoration, you know, the curved pillars, which are decorative. That’s about the only decoration on the house.”

The building, reminiscent of a freight train car, is currently situated outside the Komatsu factory and was used as an office space there until the 1980s. Approximately 30 of LeTourneau’s steel homes still remain in Peoria. 

The Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation, Wheels O’Time Museum and the Peoria Historical Society announced a joint effort to restore and relocate the 40-ton steel structure.

Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation's Brittany Brown says the effort, called the Steel House Revival, is significant on several fronts.

“Because it allows us to really celebrate a very unique piece of Peoria’s history," Brown said. "But I think what’s even maybe more important is that it’s given us the opportunity to partner with these other two organizations.”

Brown says the Steel House Revival has raised 45 percent of its total $180,000 goal to renovate the building and relocate it to the Wheels O’Time Museum. The renovation would include furnishing the inside with period furniture, Brown said.