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The History of Cities in 50 Buildings: Levittown

Levittown isn’t a single building but a development of more than 17,000 detached houses. The project – started in 1947 as America’s prototypical postwar planned community – has outlived its heartiest supporters and harshest detractors to stand today as something more complicated than a monument to the glory of the American dream, or to the blandness and conformity to which that dream led.

Like so much else in 20th-century America, Levittown began as a shrewd business move. The homebuilding firm of Levitt and Sons had specialised in upper middle class dwellings on New York’s Long Island before the second world war, only to be curtailed by the conflict’s enormous consumption of construction resources.

But then the founder’s son, William Levitt, came home from the navy with an idea: every young veteran returning to the United States would need a home. Couldn’t the mass-production strategies he’d learned putting up military housing give it to them?

Read the whole thing at The Guardian.