Explore the Kitchen


Exhibit acknowledgements

 

Push-button convenience
EXPLORE THE KITCHEN


woman with casserole cartoon

Reproduced kitchen from the Levittown exhibit

Click on the dots above to zoom-in on the photograph.

This kitchen, from a Jubilee model located in the Highland Park section, typifies the “modern efficiency” of Levittown’s homes. To maximize space, all major appliances—including an automatic washer and dryer—were built into this area. Homeowners could also choose options like the built-in food processor with
interchangeable attachments.

This reconstruction represents the kitchen as it appeared in 1958, the year that its original owners purchased their new home.


The Prewar Kitchen

Photo of typical 1930s kitchenAlthough modern by the standards of the day, the typical 1930s kitchen was still antiseptic white, relied on stand-alone cabinets, and featured few if any electrical appliances. After World War II, the American kitchen underwent a dramatic revolution in both form and function.

Image courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum.


The American kitchen is losing one of its four walls.

House and Home, June 1953

Open Plan

Photo of Levittown's open designDuring the 1950s, architects and builders began opening up residential floor plans to create more integrated living spaces. The open plan helped transform the kitchen from a “fox hole” into a “command center” where housewives could perform chores and still interact with family members in adjoining rooms. In Levittown, the open kitchen blended into the home’s overall living plan. In early models, cabinets and appliances were arranged on only two walls and opened directly onto the living room and dinette.

Image from the Levittown Regional Library.


If forced to pick one color as leading this year, most industry men say pink is tops.

Electrical Merchandising, 1958

Colorful Kitchens

Colorful artwork from magazineColor in the kitchen during the 1950s was a reaction to the antiseptic white of earlier eras. Colors also helped homeowners coordinate the kitchen with the rest of the house. This helps to explain the late 1950s interest in simulated wood grain cabinets and countertops. Now exposed to view, kitchen elements came to be regarded as furniture.

Image from Electrical Merchandising, 1958.


All Electric

An ad for General ElectricLevittown’s kitchens were powered by electricity. Compared to gas, and most certainly coal-fired stoves of an earlier generation, electricity was considered safer, cleaner, and more contemporary. General Electric, which outfitted all of Levittown’s houses, boasted that its ranges and refrigerators combined style and efficiency. The refrigerator shown here featured revolving stainless steel “Lazy Susan” shelves for “table top accessibility.”

Image from Lesley Jackson's, Contemporary.


Today, the American housewife demands a coordinated, well-planned kitchen. She wants appliances, storage space, utilities all integrated.

Electrical Merchandising, 1957

Built-in

Cover of magazine featuring husband and wife working in kitchen togetherWith the “built-in” kitchen, no space went to waste. It was also intended to make housework easier, since storage areas and all major appliances—including an automatic washer and dryer—were compactly arranged into the same space. This reconstructed kitchen’s original GE washer and dryer have been replaced by a period washer and dryer manufactured by Maytag.

Image from Electrical Merchandising, August 1952.


Push-button Convenience

Levittown kitchens featured an array of gadgets designed to make housework easier. One of the special features of the Sondesky’s kitchen was a built-in, push-button “food center” with mixer, knife sharpener and blender attachments. Marketing surveys revealed that blenders appealed to upscale home buyers. The Sondeskys used theirs to make milkshakes.

Image from Electrical Merchandising, 1957.

Cartoon of woman reclining while machines work in kitchen.

Thanks to the number of appliances in our house, the girls will have three hours to kill every afternoon.

Architect Alfred Levitt

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