Californian heads effort to preserve remaining LeTourneau concrete homes

LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) – If you live in Longview, you’re likely familiar with the large steel domes built by RG LeTourneau on property now owned by Komatsu. What isn’t as easily seen are a couple homes built out of concrete in just a day by LeTourneau. A Longview native wants to make sure they are preserved for the future.

Stephen Cameron works in real estate in California now, but he grew up in Longview.

“Until I was about 12 years old, I actually lived just up High Street,” Cameron said. “I drove by the domes every day, and to my shame, I had no idea until adulthood, actually until a few weeks ago, that these type of homes, these concrete houses built in a day, even existed.”

Cameron said he found out that two of them stood still on Komatsu property. He said in the 1940s RG Letourneau invented a huge machine that was basically a rolling concrete house mold. Thus the name, Tournalaid Homes.

“They came up with a design to build these homes in a day,” Cameron said. “The walls, roof and supporting interior walls were all made out of concrete in one structure, one shell.”

It was LeTourneau’s answer to inexpensive housing after World War II, but “the machine that made those homes is no longer in existence,” Cameron said.

He said many of the homes on LeTourneau, now Komatsu, property have been torn down. So, around the holidays, Stephen sent Komatsu a petition “to stop any plans to demolish immediately. I don’t think there were any plans to do that immediately, but we want to try to be proactive and get ahead of the curve,” Cameron said.

He said city and LeTourneau University property is nearby, and he’d like to work with them, as well as Komatsu.

He wants “to see if it’s actually possible to move these things out of the way of progress, and also preserve them in the process,” Cameron said.

Cameron said the concrete homes were built in several countries, but most no longer exist.

“They’re all gone. They were either built over, bricked over, changed significantly where they’re unrecognizable or they’ve just been bulldozed,” Cameron said.

He said there were about 40 homes on Macarthur Drive at Komatsu, but now there are two. Cameron said he feels growth and expansion, as Komatsu is presently going through, is a good thing, but he’d like to keep the door to history open.

Cameron said ultimately, he would like the concrete homes to be open to the public. He said so far communications with Komatsu have been positive. They issued KLTV this statement:

“Komatsu was very recently made aware of interest in preserving two Tournalaid home structures located on property that we acquired last year. While we have not yet had the opportunity to consider the request, there are no immediate plans to demolish these structures, and we are open to discussing a plan to preserve them.”

KLTV 7′s Jamey Boyum talks with California resident Stephen Cameron about what he says are the only two surviving concrete homes built in the 1940s by RG LeTourneau.

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