Levittown, Pa.
Building the Suburban Dream
 

Explore the exhibit menu:
Planning, Building and Selling Levittown

Crabgrass Frontiers

The Most Perfectly Planned Community

The Most House for the Most Money

Assembly Line Housing

Advertising the American Dream


The Suburban Dream
Levittown Kitchen


Exhibit acknowledgements

 

The Most Perfectly Planned Community
DESIGNING LEVITTOWN FROM THE OUTSIDE


drawing board cartoon

"We bought 5,000 acres and we planned every foot of it."
Bill Levitt quoted in House and Home, December 1951.

Levitt and Sons boasted that its new development would be "the most perfectly planned community in America." The key ingredient? A master plan that plotted the location of virtually every sapling, screw, and shingle.


Buying and Clearing the Land

Aerial view showing Levittown before development. Courtesy of the Bucks County Courier Times.

Aerial view showing Levittown before development. [Bucks County Courier Times]

Bulldozer Courtesy of the Nassau County Museum.

Bulldozer clearing farmland. [Nassau County Museum]

Using surrogate agents, Levitt purchased a total of 5,750 acres, mostly farmland, from between 150-175 individual property owners over several months in 1951. By buying his property "in one fell swoop," Levitt hoped to avoid the piecemeal acquisitions that plagued the development of his Long Island community.

At the time nearly everyone viewed the opportunity to own a home in the suburbs as a sign of progress. By the 1990s, however, many believed that unchecked suburban development or "sprawl" threatened farmland and open spaces and undermined the vitality of American cities.


The Blueprint for Levittown

Diagram of one of Levittownįs

Diagram of one of Levittown's "master blocks." [Reprinted from House and Home, November 1951]

Bill Levitt pauses next to a large planning map of Levittown. [Reprinted from Lesley Jackson, Contemporary.]The basic planning unit for Levittown was the master block, a roughly mile-square area that encompassed three to five variously sized neighborhoods, also known as "sections." Each section contained on average between 300 and 500 houses.

Bill Levitt pauses next to a large planning map of Levittown. [Reprinted from Lesley Jackson's Contemporary]

Although the goal of Levittown was to house people, and lots of them, by arranging his houses around neighborhoods drawn to human scale, Levitt hoped to create a small-town feel.


Planning for Community

In addition to houses, Levittown's master plan called for swimming pools, baseball fields, churches, schools, and shopping centers. Levitt believed new homeowners preferred a full-service community with "built-in" features—just like its houses.

Architect Rendering of the Walt Disney Elementary School. Courtesy of Walt Disney Elementary, Levittown.Elementary schools were to be nestled inside each master block so that, in Levitt's words, "no child will have to walk more than one half mile to school or cross any major road."

Architect Rendering of the Walt Disney Elementary School. [Walt Disney Elementary, Levittown]

Levittown Episcopal Church. Courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia.

 

 

 

Levittown Episcopal Church. [Urban Archives, Temple University, Philadelphia]

Many churches, like the one pictured, were centrally located along the Levittown Parkway. Levitt donated the land for both churches and schools.

view of Little League baseball field; Courtesy of Jerry Jonas.

View of Little League baseball field. [Jerry Jonas]

Kids next to swimming pool sign; Courtesy of the Bucks County Historical Society.

One of Levittown's five community swimming pools. [Collections of the State Museum]

Levitt's plan included Olympic-sized swimming pools, Little League baseball fields, neighborhood parks, and a multi-purpose community building. An avid baseball fan, Levitt even built a regulation, major-league field in the hopes of luring a minor league team to Levittown.

Shopping center.By building a few large, centralized shopping centers, Levitt hoped to avoid the problems associated with haphazardly placed and often unsightly commercial strips. Levittown's main shopping center was not only large—at the time, the biggest shopping center east of the Mississippi—but also meticulously landscaped.

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State Museum of Pennsylvania Copyright © 2003 The State Museum of Pennsylvania