Zoe Barley makes lunch in her home, affectionately named "Steel Away," August 20, 2018 in Chautauqua, New York. Steel Away is an all-steel Lustron house built after World War II. While these magnetic homes were once popular, now fewer than 2,500 remain across the United States. Owners find community in an online forum where they swap tips on where to track down rare replacement parts.
Steve and Pati Piper, owners of “The Buckeye” at 20 Center, refer to past owners by name as if they were friends, and portraits of the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Ward, are the largest art on the first-floor walls. Their home was built in the 1870s on a tent platform; Steve Piper said his parents bought the property in 1963 for $3,500, which included not just the house, but dishes, 19th-century furniture and even vintage chamber pots (which, fittingly, now hold the cat litter). When he pokes the ceiling of a second-floor bathroom, it has supple give: He explained that it’s tent canvas at the core, coated with layers upon layers of paint. “We kept it old Chautauqua,” he said. “It’s as much Chautauqua’s history as it is our own.” Steve Piper points out an antique newspaper rack hanging in his foyer August 16, 2018.