Levittown is one of the more recognizable Long Island town names. It started with cookie cutter houses built for war veterans and their future families by William Jaird Levitt, a real estate developer widely credited as the “Father of Modern American Suburbia.” Since then, Levittown has turned into a unique family-friendly town.
Built on land formerly known as potato fields, over 17 thousand Levitt houses were built between 1947 and 1951. Approximately thirty houses were built per day on concrete slabs set on lots that measured 60 feet by 100 feet on average. They were built in an assembly line manner with precut lumber and nails manufactured at a factory that Levitt and Sons owned. Power tools such as saws, nailers, and routers helped the workers move at a faster pace. Teams of workers had specific tasks to accomplish for each house. From foundation, drywall, and painting to a final clean sweep of the house (for a total of twenty seven steps in the building process), the Levitt home was complete.
Original Levitt capes were rented for $80 a month with an option to buy after a year. A few years later, slightly larger “ranch” models were built to sell starting at $7,990. With options such as exterior differences, home color, and window placement for homebuyers to choose from, some of the standard luxuries in Levitt Ranches were radiant heat, General Electric appliances, and a Bendix brand clothes washer. Levitt houses were perfect for families to start their new lives after the war and since many of the homes were lived in by young families, the town saw a “baby boom” in the years following its development.
Some critics were concerned though, thinking the town was too monotonous and “cookie cutter.” They felt that the community could deteriorate and become lower class. The residents of Levittown took pride in their town though, and today nearly all of the houses have been renovated or expanded in one way or another, making a drive through the winding streets a fun experience to see the unique styles that have been created.
Levitt and Sons wanted to keep through traffic on main roads so they created curvy and winding streets to minimize the traffic going through the family-friendly town. They also wanted local recreations activities to be available — throughout the town there are nine community swimming pools, more than sixty playgrounds, at least ten baseball diamonds, and seven “village greens” that also have shopping centers with stores such as deli’s, bagel stores, ice cream shops, and pizzerias.
For more Levittown history, families can visit the Levittown Historical Museum. Visitors can see replicas of rooms furnished with original furniture and appliances from the Levitt homes of the late 1940s and early 1950s. They can also learn more about William Levitt and his Sons, who made Levittown a unique suburban town.
Levittown Historical Museum -150 Abbey Lane, Levittown, NY 11756
Wednesday – 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm
Friday – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
By Pamela Boccia