Perfectly Planned Community
Most House for the Most Money
the American Dream
Assembly Line Housing
"We are not builders. We are manufacturers."
On the assembly line made famous by Henry Ford, products
moved down a conveyor belt to stationary workers. Levitt
inverted Ford's system by having the workers move "down
the line" to a stationary product—the individual house
Work crews performed the same specialized task at
each house site. Some laid slabs, some framed. One
job consisted of bolting washing machines into the
Whatever its drawbacks, Levitt's system was enormously
productive. His Levittowns were the fastest built
in the history of American residential construction.
- July 1951 -- Land purchase completed
- December 1951 -- Sample houses open for inspection
- March 1952 -- Construction begins
- June 1952 -- First residents take possession
- December 1952 -- First section completed
- December 1957 -- Slab laid for last Levittown house--#17,311
While many supplies were shipped
in, some materials were made on site. A cement
hopper and gravel pit set up in the Lakeside section
produced concrete for house slabs. After construction
was completed, Levitt flooded the pit to create
a community lake.
[Urban Archives, Temple University]
and Sons lumber yard. [Levittown
loaded with lumber bundles. [Nassau County
To reduce his dependence
on middlemen, Levitt bought his own lumber stands
in California and Oregon, invested in a lumber
mill, and established a centrally located warehouse
in Levittown. To increase efficiency, pre-cut
lumber was bundled "combat loaded," with pieces
needed first at top, before being trucked off
to the site.
Building materials, from siding to nails,
were delivered in perfectly calibrated house-sized
amounts to each house site. Workers needed to
do no measuring or cutting. Interchangeable, standardized
parts also cut costs.
Men framing house.
[Urban Archives, Temple Univerity]
view showing house slabs positioned at alternating
angles. [Urban Archives, Temple University,
methods required he build only one or at most
two house models per section, Levitt created the
illusion of variety by alternating house angles,
as revealed in this aerial photo of Levittowner
house slabs in the Stonybrook section. Levitt
also varied exterior house colors.
ran a notoriously tight business operation and expected
a full day's work out of all his staff. Employees of
Levitt's North Shore Supply Company were expected
to determine the exact cost of all building materials—"down
to the last 19 cents for two pounds of four-penny
nails," according to a Fortune Magazine article.
||Rare photo of Bill
Levitt (far left) on site. [Urban Archives, Temple
"Sure, there's a thrill meeting a demand with a product
no one else can meet" Bill Levitt told the New
York Times in 1952. "But I'm not here just to
build and sell houses. To be perfectly frank, I'm
looking for a little glory, too… I want to
build a town to be proud of."
after construction began, Levitt predicted that his
firm would complete 4,000 houses within the first year,
a goal he nearly reached.
housing section. [Bucks County Courier