Society

The Levittowns of the United States

Throughout the 20th century, the builder Levitt & Sons Inc. designed planned communities known as Levittowns in the United States.

Levittown refers to the seven large suburban developments of a planned community initially created on Long Island in the United States. Levittown was a post-war housing project consisting of mass-produced homes. The development consisted of more than 17,000 detached homes that were built to house thousands of veterans who returned after World War II. The project was undertaken by the home-building firm of Levitt and Sons who had specialized in creating dwellings for upper middle-class on New York’s Long Island. The newly built suburban communities offered attractive alternatives to the cramped central city locations. Abraham Levitt, the founder of the Levitt firm, and his two sons Alfred and William were the main entrepreneurs of this suburban housing project which started in 1947.

The origin of Levittown

Like any shrewd business move in the mid-20th Century, the home-building firm of Levitt and Sons had focused mainly on building homes for the upper middle-class in New York’s Long Island. Because of second World War conflict, construction resources became scarce and alternative means of house production had to be found.

William Levitt, one of the founder’s sons, returned home from the navy with an idea that became an iconic entrepreneurship story - every young veteran returning from the war would need a home. In addition to this brilliant idea, he realized the mass production strategies he’d learned while putting up military housing would help and allow rapid recovery costs.

The first suburban development took place in Nassau County, Long Island, where previous potato and onion farmland was turned into a suburban community that housed thousands of people. The Levitt housing firm would go on to build other communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania while creating a new legend in the history of American suburban developments. The housing projects were not only a story of iconic entrepreneurship but also a representation of American spirit of hopefulness and wholesomeness.

The Construction of the Levittown

The Levittown construction was famous for building a single house every 16 minutes during its construction peak. The production was done in an assembly-like manner where thousands of identical homes were produced easily and effectively. The houses were standardized to have a white picket fence, house appliances and well landscaped outdoors. The Levitts implemented wholly new methods of construction by taking the division of labor to the extreme. The construction of each home included 27 steps from the laying of a concrete base. Each construction worker was trained to perform a single step to each house as opposed to building a single house from scratch until completion. They would then move on to the next house which was located 60 feet away and do the same task.

Levitt, who was the operation's mastermind, referred to the company as manufacturers of houses and not builders. He declared his company as the “General Motors of the housing industry” providing the basic element of the American dream.

Controversies

The Levittowns famously involved a lease policy which stated: “the tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be sued or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.” Minorities were not allowed to purchase homes or live in the suburban communities. Thankfully, the provision was later struck as unconstitutional.

The Levittowns of the United States

RankLevittown Project
1Levittown, New York
2Levittown, Pennsylvania
3Willingboro, New Jersey
4Bowie, Maryland
5Aberdeen, New Jersey
6Levittown, Puerto Rico
7Somerset, New Jersey
8Greenbriar, Virginia
9Laurel, Maryland
10Essonne, France

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