Perfectly Planned Community
Most House for the Most Money
the American Dream
The Most Perfectly Planned Community
DESIGNING LEVITTOWN FROM THE OUTSIDE
"We bought 5,000 acres and we planned
every foot of it."
Bill Levitt quoted in House and Home,
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. [Bucks County
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
The Blueprint for Levittown
Diagram of one of Levittown's "master
blocks." [Reprinted from House and Home,
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
||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
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.
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."
of the Walt Disney Elementary School. [Walt Disney
Church. [Urban Archives, Temple University,
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. [Jerry Jonas]
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,
a multi-purpose community building. An avid baseball
fan, Levitt even built a regulation, major-league
in the hopes of luring a minor league team to Levittown.
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.