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Levittown

LEVITTOWN


LEVITTOWN. A mass-produced suburban housing development on Long Island, New York, the first Levittown came to symbolize post–World War II suburbanization. The product of the builders Levitt and Sons, Levittown was constructed between 1947 and 1951 on seven square miles of Nassau County, about thirty miles east of Manhattan. Responding to a postwar housing shortage, the Levitts built the four-room look-alike dwellings at the rate of 150 per week, eventually producing 17,447 houses. The first 6,000 units, all Cape Cod–style, were offered for rental. But exploiting the availability of low-cost, insured mortgages offered by the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration, the Levitts soon abandoned their role as landlords and chose instead to sell the houses. Veterans could purchase a two-bedroom, one-bath house on a six-thousand-foot lot with no money down and payments of only $60 a month. In 1949, Levitt and Sons discontinued the Cape Cod model and introduced ranch-style houses, all of which were for sale. The Levitts also built seven small shopping centers, known as village greens, and nine public swimming pools to serve the subdivision's residents.

Although most of the new home owners praised Levittown, outside critics claimed the community's cheap structures were destined to become the slums of the future. Moreover, the rows of virtually identical houses became a target for those who feared the suffocating homogeneity that supposedly characterized suburban culture. Levittown became synonymous with working-class and lower-middle-class suburbanization and an object of contempt for all those who deplored that phenomenon. In fact, the Levitt houses were well constructed and appreciated in value. Furthermore, through extensive remodeling, the once-identical units developed an individuality. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, houses that originally cost $7,500 were selling for $250,000. In 2000, 53,067 residents called the massive subdivision home.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kelly, Barbara M. Expanding the American Dream: Building and Rebuilding Levittown. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Jon C.Teaford

See alsoHousing ; Suburbanization .

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Levittown

Levittown (lĕv´ət-toun´). 1 Uninc. residential city (1990 pop. 53,286), Nassau co., SE N.Y., on Long Island; founded 1947. Originally about 7 sq mi (18 sq km) of potato fields, it was developed by Levitt & Sons, Inc., as a mass-produced area of private, low-cost housing. Each of the more than 17,000 nearly identical two-bedroom Cape Cod–style homes were built on a concrete slab and offered 800 sq ft (74 sq m) of space in a suburban setting. 2 Suburban development (1990 pop. 55,362), Bucks co., E Pa., between Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J. It was the second housing establishment built (1951–55) by Levitt & Sons, who repeated the low-cost residence plan of the N.Y. development. The name Levittown has come to symbolize the U.S. post–World War II suburban phenomenon, which first gave middle-class families the option of inexpensive, single-unit housing outside urban neighborhoods. Sometimes criticized for their "cookie-cutter" designs, most of Levittown's houses have been remodeled and expanded by their owners in the years since they were built.

See studies by H. Gans (1967) and B. M. Kelly (1993).

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Levittown

Levittown. American suburban development at Hicksville, NY, built after the 1939–45 war for demobilized servicemen by Levitt & Son. Conceived with winding roads, accommoda-tion for cars, and detached houses, it was fol-lowed by other developments in PA and NJ, and influenced countless dormitory suburbs.

Bibliography

Dobriner (ed.) (1958);
H. Gans (1969);
Halberstam (1993)

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