'First suburb': Levittown celebrates 60 years





The area of Long Island that would become synonymous with suburbia was farmland on the edge of the Hempstead Plains until William J. Levitt arrived in 1947 to build the development that shares his surname.

Levitt, then 40, broke ground for the first of the 17,000 homes that would pop up on 1,000 acres of potato farms 15 miles east of New York City on July 1, 1947. He earned his nickname as "the Henry Ford of Housing" by building fast, using mass-production techniques. By breaking down the construction process into 27 operations done by specialized teams, Levitt could sell houses for between $8,000 and $12,000 and still make a $1,000 profit.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of Levittown, the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages in Stony Brook has assembled what it is calling the the most comprehensive exhibit ever done on the landmark affordable housing development and its creator.

"Living the American Dream -- Levittown and the Suburban Boom" opens Feb. 10 and runs until July 8. It combines artifacts, photographs, video and text to tell the story of the opportunities Levittown provided -- and denied -- and their relevance to today's shortage of affordable housing on Long Island.



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