When America Moved to the Suburbs

This month marks the 69th anniversary of a truly American spectacle: the opening of the Levittown planned community on Long Island, New York. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the country should really celebrate.

Levittown was one of the first of hundreds of similar communities that sprang up across America in the years following WWII.

These became the great bedroom communities for servicemen returning from war. The incubators of the great Baby Boomer generation.

The G.I. Bill had promised guaranteed mortgages for G.I.s, and developers like William and Alfred Levitt were ready.

In Levittown, in New York, they built 17,000 Cape Cod and ranch houses in record time, by applying prefabrication, standardization and “corner cutting” on a scale never before seen.

The homes didn’t have traditional floors – just concrete slabs covered with asphalt, then carpeting. Pre-formed roof sections were hoisted atop rapidly-framed structures using cranes. Teams of workers were trained to perform a given task on one home, then quickly move on to the next.

Using these high-efficiency methods, the developers built homes that could be sold at a profit for less than $8,000.

This was just what returning G.I.s needed, and could afford. It was American ingenuity at its finest.

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