Wed 19 Nov, 2008 12:23 pm
After nearly 80 years and 200,000 homes, it filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. It was heavily invested in luxury homes in southern Florida and tanked with the housing market. Levittown, an affordable suburb built to propel blue-collar Americans into the property-owning middle class. Actually, Levittown was built for young, white men with families. Single people, people of color and the elderly were not welcome. As late as 1960, with 82,000 people, it was the largest all-white community in the nation.
Levittown has been held up as an example of nimble, ambitious private enterprise stepping up to solve an urgent housing shortage, this was only partly true. Builders like Levitt threw up houses and pocketed cash but left many of the vital ingredients of a community " roads, parks, sewers and trash collection " to others.
Levitt and Sons Builders are broke, but the crappy suburb remains. Many of the homes where taken down in the 80's and replaced by oversized McMansions. Still crappy, just bigger. I grew up near this post war wonder and it's amazing any of the homes are still standing. They all had various structural problems within a decade of being built. I seem to recall Levitt and Robert Moses were somehow in cahoots. Moses built bridges so low that buses couldn't drive under them, thus assuring that the po' folk of the cities and boroughs would not be able to get to Long Island's public beaches. Levitt made sure that black veterans never stepped inside any of his plaster boxes, unless they were there to do some menial labor. I'm surprised it took them this long to go belly up.
I'm surprised it took them this long to go belly up.
Me too. Levittown was basically a 1950s post-WW II phenomenon. They should'a gone belly up during the socially conscious hippie 1960s. Bahstids (as dlowan would say).
Warts and all, Levittown served an important purpose at a time when housing was really needed. The soldiers were coming home after WWII, and there was very little housing stock.
On my block in Brooklyn, young couples were renting basements, as there were so few regular apartments on the market. I would suspect that Levittown was the beginning of the suburbs. I have been in a couple of houses in Levittown. Yeah, they are pretty basic, but then again, it was a great place to live for a young couple with limited funds. Many of them have been refurbished, and improved.
As far as segregation was concerned, one would have lived in that era to understand that, right or wrong, separation of the races (and to a great extent, ethnic groups,) was the way that society worked. The civil rights movement was nearly two decades away.
For whatever its problems, Levittown was a breakthrough in the way that people lived.