I grew-up on Long Island and my recent visit sparked a desire to highlight the first suburban mass-produced housing development in the country, Levittown. Built between 1947-1951, the identical houses would become a symbol of the “American Dream” as it allowed thousands of families to become home owners.
The building firm, Levitt & Sons, began before WW II, however, during the war, William “Bill” Levitt served in the Navy and developed expertise in the mass-produced building of military housing using uniform and interchangeable parts.
After the war, with his architect-brother, Alfred, he designed a small one-floor house with an unfinished “expansion attic” that could be rapidly constructed and as rapidly rented to returning GIs and their young families.
Levitt & Sons built the community based on speed, efficiency, and cost-effective construction. They used pre-cut lumber and nails and built on concrete slabs. The building of every house was reduced to 26 steps, with sub-contractors responsible for each step. His mass production of thousands of houses at virtually the same time allowed Levitt to sell them for as little as $8,000 each.
The Cape Cod model: The 750-square-foot Cape Cods featured two bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen, a living room and a staircase to an unfinished attic. There were slight external differences. Homebuyers could choose from one of five colors and one of five window-arrangement patterns.
The Rancher model: Larger, 32 by 25 feet, and more modern then the Cape Cod. The ranch homes built on concrete slabs, included an expandable attic but no garage, and were heated with hot-water radiant heating pipes. This model was altered in 1950 to include a carport and a built-in television. In 1951, a partially finished attic was added to the design.
In all, 17,447 homes were constructed in Levittown between 1947 and 1951. Levittown has become so ingrained in American culture that the Smithsonian Institution in Washington would like to put on display an entire Levittown house.