William Jaird Levitt was born on 11th February 1907 and is known as “the father of modern American suburbia” He was an American real estate development whose advances in housing after World War Two allowed these types of planned communities to be built in various areas through the creation of affordable housing. This led to him becoming a billionaire.
He was President of Levitt and Sons which was a real estate company started by his father Abraham Levitt around the beginning of the Great Depression. In this position he was able to supervise the various aspects of the company excluding the designs of the houses they built which was managed by his brother Alfred. Before World War Two the company built mainly upmarket houses on Long Island in New York and in the surrounding area. However when William came back from serving in the Navy during World War Two he realised that veterans needed more affordable housing than the housing they were building.
Therefore after the war Levitt and Sons started a large building project on Island Tree near Hepstead in Long Island. This project was known as Levittown and was an idea of Levitt’s for a planned community with houses built in the way of an assembly line. In 1947 people began to move into Levittown in New York as were known as “Levittowners”. The houses in Levittown were on sale for $8,000-$12,000 and could be paid for with monthly payments as cheap as $57.
Another similar community was then built in Bucks County in Pennsylvania by the company. This community consisted of 17,000 homes and people began moving into it in 1952. Belair at Bowie in Bowie, Maryland was built by them in the 1950s. In 1957 Bowie took over the Belair Mansion and estate which was where the Colonial Governeor Samuel Ogle lived with his Belair Stables. Other towns built by the company include Levittown in Puerto Rico in the 1960s, and towns in Palm Coast in Florida and Richmond and Fairfax in Virginia. Strathmore-at-Matawan, a 5000 house community was also built in North Central New Jersey in the early 1960s. This name was originally used by the company when they were building upper class housing in Long Island in the 1930s.
In 1968 International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) bought Levitt and Sons for around $90 million. After this Levitt lost a lot of his money in various unsuccessful investments.
He died on 28th January 1994.
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