Before Levittown was Levittown
- Prior to 1947, the Levittown area consisted of two settlements: Jerusalem and Island Trees. Jerusalem began in the 1640’s as a Quaker settlement centered around Wantagh Avenue and Southern State Parkway. After the Civil War, German immigrants coming in from Hicksville established farms along Hempstead Turnpike, Division Avenue, and Bloomingdale Road in an area known from colonial times as Island Trees. (Levittown Historical Society).
- Island Trees got its name from an ancient grove of pine trees that stood at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and Jerusalem Avenue. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of open land, the grove suggested an island of trees in a sea of grass. (Levittown Historical Society).
- There were three rural airfields in the Levittown area before World War II. The largest, the Long Island Aviation Country club now encompassed by Blacksmith, Pellican, and Woodcock Roads) operated from 1929 to 1950 and was the frequent haunt of Charles Lindburgh. (Levittown Historical Society)
- From 1871 until the 1930’s, the Central Branch of the Long Island Rail Road (called the Stewart Line) ran through the future Levittown. It transported passengers, livestock, and seed potatoes. In 1948, William Levitt reconstructed sections of the Stewart Line in East Meadow to transport building materials for his housing project. (Levittown Historical Society)
- The Little Red Schoolhouse was built in 1876. Students of all grade levels learned in one room until two more rooms were added in 1920. It was the only schoolhouse in the area in 1947. Designated as a historical landmark in 1985, it is located on Old Jerusalem Road across from MacArthur High School. (information from newspaper article “A Landmark for Levittown” kept in Little Red Schoolhouse project folder).
- Until 1908, Division Avenue ran northward all the way to Old Country Road. (Levittown Historical Society)
- Bloomingdale Road once ran all the way to Hempstead Turnpike, where DSW is today. (Levittown Historical Society)
- 250,000 people came to view the Vanderbilt Cup Race, held in the future Levittown between 1908 and 1910. Spectators included: J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, and William K. Vanderbilt. The Vanderbilt Parkway was the first in the country built for automobile traffic. (Levittown Historical Society)
- An outbreak of an agricultural pest called the golden nematode worm in the early 1940’s prompted many local potato farmers to sell off their fields to William Levitt. (Levittown Historical Society)
- The original tract of land purchased by William Levitt was 500 acres bounded by Hempstead Turnpike, Bellmore Road, Jeruasalem Avenue, and Old Motor Parkway. (Newsday 5/7/47)
Construction and the Settlement
Construction of Levittown
- Announcement of the sale of at least 350 units in Levittown began on March 7, 1947.
- Levittown was an “unincorporated area.” Building began on May 7, 1947. (Newsday 10/2/47 & 9/20/77)
- Small work crews moved from plot to plot, with each crew performing its own specific operation, to ultimately complete a block of houses. In other words, the houses were built in a “reverse assembly line” fashion, where the workers moved and the product stayed still. (Time Magazine, 7/3/50)
- There were 27 steps involved in building Levitt houses. In 1947, crews were erecting 18 houses a day. By July 1948, this number rose to 30 houses a day. (Matarrese, History of Levittown)
- The project came to an end on November 21, 1951. (E.J. Smits, Nassau Suburbia)
- Total number of Levitt houses built between 1947-1951: 17,447. (E.J. Smits, Nassau Suburbia)
- The official anniversary of Levittown’s opening day is October 1, 1947, when the first 300 families moved into the development. (Newsday 10/2/47 & 9/20/77)
- On October 1, 1947, the Bladykas family moved into the house at 67 Bellmore Road – the first house built by Levitt & Sons. (Levittown Historical Society)
- Other first day residents: George Dittus, Peter Buchard, Philip H. Trout, Julius Geier. (Newsday 10/2/47 with photos).
- 1,000th family: 2 months after the first family, Richard Gremillot moved in at 61 Valley Road. (I.T. Eagle, 11/20/1947)
- Ernest Southard moved into the last house built on November 22, 1951 (Tardy Lane South)
- Levitt provided for 14 parks and playgrounds, 7 Village Greens, and 9 swimming pools. Village Greens are stores and businesses within walking distance from homes, meant to satisfy day-to-day needs. A typical Village Green housed a bakery, supermarket, barbershop, and stationary store. The first swimming pool opened on June 2, 1949. Each pool cost $150,000 to build.
- The Levittown Public Library opened on June 30, 1951 in the South Village Green (Director: Ruth Miller). In January 1963, it moved from rented stores in the South Village Green to its present location on Bluegrass Lane.
- Hempstead Bank was the first bank in Levittown. It opened in 1949 in the King Kullen Shopping Center.
- St. Bernards Church’s first mass was held on July 7, 1948.
- The first telephone was installed on May 27, 1948.
- The first street lights were installed in the community in September 1948.
- The original rental fee was $60 per month. (L.I. Press 10/2/47)
- Zoning laws changed to accommodate cellarless homes on 5/27/47.
- Levittown actually consists of four developments (information from Levittown Historical Society): Green Acres Development, which included a dozen houses built around Wolcott Road in the mid-1930’s
Levitt Development, which included 17,447 houses built between 1947 and 1951
Omega Development, with 125 houses built in 1949
Miller Development, with 600 houses built in the 1950’s
- Altitude: 86 feet
- Longitude: 73 degrees 30W (World Book 1973 edition)
- Latitude: 40 degrees 45N