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Levittown, Pennsylvania

Levittown, Pennsylvania

Levittown, Pennsylvania is a census-designated place (CDP) and suburban community located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, within the Philadelphia metropolitan area. As of the 2000 census, the Levittown CDP had a total population of 53,966. It is 40 feet (12 m) above sea level. Though not a municipality, it is commonly recognized as the largest suburb of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Upper Darby Township, Philadelphia's largest suburban township in Pennsylvania, and other suburban townships boast larger populations, yet these municipalities consist of more than one locality; 2 3 In New Jersey, both Camden (though wholly urban in character) and Cherry Hill have more inhabitants than Levittown.

History

Levittown, Pennsylvania, is a suburban community, planned and built by Levitt & Sons. The majority of the land on which it is built was purchased in 1951. Houses built in Levittown consisted of just six models, including the Levittowner, the Rancher, the Jubilee, the Pennsylvanian, the Colonial and the Country Clubber. Levitt & Sons constructed only single-family dwellings in the community, each surrounded by a lawn, with only modest exterior variations, modern in style, with built-in appliances and landscaping. The homes were moderately priced and required only a low down payment. Construction of Levittown began in February 1952, soon after completion of Levittown, New York, located on Long Island. Levittown, Pennsylvania, was the second "Levittown" built by William J. Levitt, who is often credited as the creator of the modern American suburb.

What set Levittown apart from other developments at the time was that it was built as a complete community. Levitt & Sons designed neighborhoods with traffic-calming curvilinear roads, in which there were no four-way intersections. Each neighborhood had within its boundaries a site donated by Levitt & Sons for a public elementary school. Locations for churches and other public facilities were set aside on main thoroughfares such as the Levittown Parkway, likewise donated by the builder to religious groups and other organizations. Other amenities included Olympic-sized public pools, parks, "greenbelts," baseball fields and playgrounds, and a shopping center located in Tullytown Borough that was considered large and modern at the time of its construction (and in fact was the largest east of the Mississippi). The first set of 4 sample homes were put on display in a swatch of land near the future Levittown Shop-a-Rama and an estimated 30,000 people viewed them in that first weekend.

Residents (who are sometimes called Levittowners) were first expected to comply with a lengthy list of rules and regulations regarding the upkeep of their homes and use of their property. Two of these "rules" included a prohibition on hanging laundry out to dry on Sunday and not allowing homeowners to fence off their yards. These proved unenforceable over time, particularly when backyard pools became financially accessible to the working class and privacy concerns drove many to fence off their yards. In the years since Levitt & Sons ended construction, three- and four-story "garden apartments" and a number of non-Levitt owner-occupied houses have been built in Levittown.

Initially Levitt & Sons would not sell homes to African Americans. However, pressure on Levitt led to a change in the company's policy. Levittown's first black couple, Bill and Daisy Myers, bought a home in the Dogwood Hollow section in 1957. Their move to Levittown was not entirely peaceful, and required intervention by state authorities. The community's otherwise placid exterior was again disturbed during days of so-called "middle-class" gas riots in June 1979 in the wake of the Camp David Peace Accords that resulted in a second embargo by Arab oil-producing nations. The unrest occurred June 24-25, 1979 as lines swelled and tempers flared in the heart of Levittown at an intersection known as Five Points, a location surrounded by six service stations, two of which were severely damaged by vandalism in those riots. The two days of riots made national headlines and even was to be mentioned (although not by name directly) in an address by President Jimmy Carter to the nation that was to be delivered on July 5, 1979

A baseball team from Levittown, Pennsylvania, won the Little League World Series in 1960. Levittown American beat an opponent from Fort Worth, Texas to win the honor.

The Levittown Shopping Center (known officially as but rarely called the "Levittown Shop-a-Rama"), located in Tullytown Borough, was unusually designed. Two parallel strips of stores faced the parking lot with a courtyard that had green spaces, benches, and entrances to the stores. The center had one large anchor department store (Pomeroys, which was acquired by Bon-Ton) as well as staple stores of a growing suburban demand (JC Penney, Woolworth's, Sears-just hardware). The shopping center began a slow decline in the mid-1970s from which it never recovered with the building of the Oxford Valley Mall. The mall, located just north of Levittown, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, in Middletown Township, drew shoppers away from the older Levittown facility, given Oxford Valley's much larger size, and enclosed shopping environment. In 2002, the redeveloped site of the Shop-a-rama was reopened as the Levittown Town Center The completed facility will contain 468,675 square feet (43,541 square meters) of retail space.

Of the five public pools, built by Levitt & Sons and operated by the Levittown Public Recreation Association (LPRA), four were closed in 2002 with the exception of one located in the Pinewood section. LPRA Headquarters (and other landmarks) of this prototypical post-war suburb of sometimes mythic importance have been the focus of historic preservation efforts. Since 2002, studies have been underway to establish the Levittown Historic District

Municipalities and Sections

Levittown, Pennsylvania, is not an incorporated place, though efforts in the early 1950s were made to incorporate. Some Levittown residents feared that incorporation would lead to higher taxes, by robbing the prospective municipality of a commercial tax base.

Levittown's 41 neighborhoods (locally called "sections") are found in parts of four separate municipalities: Bristol Township, Pennsylvania (including the sections of Plumbridge, Mill Creek, Indian Creek, Goldenridge, Blue Ridge, Whitewood, Orangewood, Yellowood, Violetwood, Red Cedar Hill, Apple Tree Hollow, Holly Hill, Crabtree Hollow, Oaktree Hollow, Greenbrook, Farmbrook, Dogwood Hollow, Junewood, Magnolia Hill, Green Lynn and most of Kenwood and Stonybrook, and a small part of Birch Valley), Falls Township, Pennsylvania (including the sections of Vermilion Hills, Thornridge, Elderberry Pond, North Park, Willow Wood, and portions of Pinewood, Lakeside and most of Birch Valley), Middletown Township, Pennsylvania (including the sections of Deep Dale East, Deep Dale West, Highland Park, Twin Oaks, Forsythia Gate, Snowball Gate, Red Rose Gate, Upper Orchard, Lower Orchard, Juniper Hill, Cobalt Ridge and Quincy Hollow), and the Borough of Tullytown, Pennsylvania (including portions of Stonybrook, Kenwood, Pinewood and Lakeside).

The names of the streets within each section uniformly begin with the same letter that begins the name of the section in question except for the secton of Green Lynn, a plan that offers a good clue as to where any particular street might be located. "X" and "Z" are not used for section or street names. As there are more than 24 section names, "road" is used for street names in sections to the west of Edgely Road, "lanes" are found in those section to the east. Red Rose Gate, Forsythia Gate, and Snowball Gate are collectively known as "The Gates." (These were the only sections without sidewalks so as to lend a more "executive" appearance to the neighborhoods.) Lakeside sits next to Lake Levittown. Magnolia Hill is on a prominent hill. Mill Creek is found next to a creek by the same name.

Middletown residents are served by public schools run by the Neshaminy School District Bristol Township public schools are managed by the Bristol Township School District, while residents of Falls Township and Tullytown Borough are served by the Pennsbury School District. Some students attend schools run by Roman Catholic, Lutheran, evangelical Protestant and Quaker organizations, in and around Levittown.

Geography

Levittown is located at (40.154109, -74.849756). Levittown lies in the southern end of Bucks County ("Lower Bucks"), between Philadelphia and Trenton, New Jersey; Downtown Philadelphia ("Center City") is approximately 22 miles (35 kilometers) away. It is part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area (an area also known generally as the Delaware Valley). It is adjacent to and nearly surrounds Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, a suburban community more modest in scale, but that shares many of Levittown's characteristics.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) regional rail serves Levittown to the south at its Levittown-Tullytown station, and to the north at its Langhorne and Woodbourne stations. Interstate 95 runs to the north and west of Levittown (connecting it with Philadelphia and the suburbs north of Trenton); The Pennsylvania Turnpike runs southwest of Levittown (connecting it with the western suburbs and the New Jersey Turnpike), and U.S. 1 runs to the north, carrying traffic directly into downtown Trenton. The nearest international airport is Philadelphia International Airport (Airport Code PHL), approximately 34 miles (55 kilometers) southwest of Levittown; The nearest Amtrak station is just across the Delaware River in Trenton, just over nine miles (14 kilometers) to the east.

Though a steel mill once operated by United States Steel Corporation provided employment in nearby Fairless Hills, many Levittowners have historically commuted by automobile or train to Philadelphia, some to Trenton, still others to more distant locales in as many as four states. Just over ten percent of employed Levittowners both live and work in the community.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 10.2 square miles (26.5 km²), of which 0.5 km² (0.59%) is water.

Demographics

Though the population reached a high of more than 75,000, according to the census of 2000, there were 53,966 people in Levittown. There were 18,603 households, and 14,510 families in the CDP. The 2000 population density measured 5,309.5 per square mile (2,050.8 per square kilometer). In Levittown, there are a total of 19,044 housing units at an average density of 1,873.7 per square mile (723.7 per square kilometer). Median rent in Levittown at the time of the 2000 Census was $657. Monthly homeowner costs, for people with mortgages, totalled $1,227 on average. The community's racial makeup is 94.36% White, 2.45% African American, 0.16% Native American, 0.96% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander; 0.86% are other races, and 1.17% are two or more races. 2.22% of the population is Hispanic or Latino, who can be of any race.

Of Levittown's 18,603 households, 35.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.7% are married couples living together, 12.3% are headed by a woman, and 22.0% are so-called "non-family" households. 17.8% of all households in Levittown are made up of individuals living alone, and 8.5% consist of someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average "household" size is 2.89 and the average "family" size is 3.28.

In the Levittown CDP, 26.4% of the population is under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24 years of age, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37. For every 100 females, there are 96.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 92.6 males. The median income for a household in the Levittown CDP is $52,514, and the median income for a family is $57,220. Men have a median income of $40,411, while women in Levittown have a median income of $29,685. The per capita income is $20,047. 4.6% of the population and 3.1% of Levittown families live below the official poverty line. 5.6% of those under the age of 18 and 3.5% of those 65 and older live below the poverty line. For people 25 years and over in Levittown, 85% have at least a high school degree, 14% have at least a Bachelor's degree. The mean travel time to work is nearly 25 minutes.

By national origin, Levittowners are Irish (31.7%), German (28.4%), Italian (16.1%), English (10.9%) and Polish (9.5%); 3.8% are foreign born. Although accurate current statistics by religious affiliation are lacking, Roman Catholics and Jews are thought to have been somewhat overrepresented among Levittown's original inhabitants, while Protestants are thought to have been underrepresented. Levittown, in addition to nearly three-dozen Protestant (including two Episcopal), three Roman Catholic and two Orthodox churches, and both a Reform Jewish congregation and a nearby Conservative Jewish synagogue, now boasts a Turkish Islamic mosque, a Hindu house of worship, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, and a Korean-language Presbyterian church Levittown's largest church is likely St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, located on the Levittown Parkway in Tullytown Borough, with more than 11,000 Catholics nominally within its parish boundaries. As befits the Quaker State, the nearby Middletown, Fallsington and Bristol Friends Meeting Houses serve Levittown. In the Levittown CDP, 25% of the adult population has never been married, 8% of adults divorced, 8% widowed and 2% separated.

Approximately 2% of Levittowners live as same-sex "unmarried partners," with slightly more coupled lesbians residing in Levittown than coupled gay men than would statistically be expected by mere chance alone. United Christian Church, a United Church of Christ (UCC) congregation (also affiliated with the Disciples of Christ), a Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregation, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church serve Levittown with " welcoming" ministries. The Bucks County Courier Times, a daily newspaper, is published in Levittown; It was once called the Levittown Times. Its policy is to publish annoucements of same-sex unions.

Famous Levittowners

Social critics such as Lewis Mumford contended that Levittown's architectural uniformity (now muted by time in any case) would give rise to social uniformity. Though the community and its residents have been the object of extensive sociological studies, the evidence has not supported Mumford's thesis. Levittowners who have achieved acclaim collectively betray no obvious political or cultural identification:

  • Keith Armstrong, a 1986 graduate of Temple University, grew up in Levittown and attended Bishop Egan High School (now Conwell-Egan Catholic High School), was a former NFL player, and is now the Special Teams coach for the Miami Dolphins.
  • Selma Bortner, printmaker, born in Cleveland June 26, 1926, moved to Levittown in 1952.
  • Susan Barnett, Anchor of the CBS 3 morning news in Philadelphia. She also is a former Miss Pennsylvania. Susan is a 1990 graduate of Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown.
  • Anna Burger, Secretary-Treasurer of the 1.8-million strong Service Employees International Union, considered the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. labor movement, grew up in Levittown in the 1950s.

  • Steven E. de Souza, Hollywood screenwriter ("48 Hours", "Die Hard") and director, grew up in Levittown and graduated from Neshaminy High School.
  • Mike Fitzpatrick, the 8th District's Republican Representative to Congress from 2005-2007, lives in Levittown's Snowball Gate.
  • Jerry Getz, graduated from Neshaminy High School in 1975. Bass Player for Original band The Daves, and later for Beru Revue. Grew up in Highland Park
  • Ileen Getz (August 7, 1961 – August 4, 2005) was an American actress, most recognized for her role as Dr. Judith Draper on the television series 3rd Rock from the Sun. Grew up in Highland Park. Graduated from Neshaminy Maple Point High School in 1980
  • River Huston, writer, AIDS activist, author of Goddess: New Guide to Feminine Wisdom and official 1995 Bucks County poet laureate, grew up in Levittown, and currently resides in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania.
  • Dan Jones, currently lives in Levittown. He is co-host and associate producer on The Stabcast, a popular internet radio show.
  • Joan Klatcho, photographer, grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and is creator of an exhibit entitled "Coming Home: Levittown Revisited"
  • Hal Lefcourt, a political gadfly, one-time defender of the Myers against a sometimes unruly mob, often called the unofficial "mayor" of Levittown, organized the Levittown Historic Preservation Society.
  • Jack McFadden, poet, lives with his family in Levittown, and has been published in The Bucks County Writer, CREO, Dogwood, Garden House, The Horsethief’s Journal, Mad Poets Review, Manorborn, Painted Moon Review, Pebble Lake Review, Quercus Review, and Saucy Vox, and is working on a book-length manuscript. The Mad Poets Society meets at several locations around the Delaware Valley, including in Levittown.
  • Daisy Myers, who is sometimes called the "Rosa Parks of the North," author of Sticks 'n Stones: the Myers Family in Levittown, published by the York County Heritage Trust, moved with her family to Levittown in 1957, the first African-American couple to purchase a home in the community; She lived there for five years before moving to York County, Pennsylvania.
  • Michael Schiavo, born April 3, 1963, husband to Terri Schiavo, grew up in Levittown.
  • Charlotte A. Schatz, painter, sculptor, born January 6, 1929, was a one-time Levittown resident, and member of the Levittown Artists' Association.
  • Mark S. Schweiker, born January 31, 1953, was the former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania (from October 5, 2001 to January 21, 2003), grew up in Levittown, in The Gates.
  • Steve Slaton, is a rookie running back of the Houston Texans. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 NFL draft after playing 3 years in college for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Slaton was named MVP of the 2005 Sugar Bowl. Slaton attended Conwell-Egan Catholic High School.
  • Mike Stefanoni, graduated from Harry S. Truman High School in 2003. Currently a Professional Golfer on the PGA Tour.
  • David Uosikkinen, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1974. Drummer for rock band The Hooters
  • JJ Palmere grew up in Levittown and currently lives in the Kenwood development, professional bmx rider.
  • Boomer M. Wadaska, born November 20, 1972, filmmaker & author, lived in the Greenbrook section from 1972-2002 and graduated from Harry S Truman High School in 1991.
  • Jay Dubya (John Wiessner), author of 31 books, lived at 50 Daffodil Lane in Dogwood Hollow from 1954-'59 and attended Bishop Egan High in 1958-'59. John's pen name "Jay Dubya" is a corruption of his initials, J.W.
  • References

    Anderson, David, Levittown is Burning: Gas Line Riot and the Decline of the Blue-Collar American Dream," Labor: Studies in Working-Class History in the Americas (Duke University Press: Fall 2005)

    Caldwell, Christopher, "Levittown to Littleton: Seclusion of Affluent Suburbs Prevents Normal Socialization For Children," National Review, (May 31, 1999) (arguing that the multi-acre lots of the western suburbs such as those who attend Columbine High School in Colorado, largely unknown in the east, isolate affluent suburban children in "McMansions," and present a problem no child in Levittown ever faced)

    Duncan, Susan Kirsch, Levittown: The Way We Were, Maple Hill Press (1999), ISBN 0-930545-18-4

    Dubya, Jay, Black Leather and Blue Denim: A '50s Novel, CyberRead Publishing (2001), ISBN 1-931921-76-8 (an fictionalized account of "greasers" in Levittown's Dogwood Hollow and Kenwood sections during the 1950s)

    Gans, Herbert J., The Levittowners: Ways of Life and Politics in a New Suburban Community, Columbia University Press (1967, reprinted 1982), ISBN 0-231-05571-4 (though written about Levittown, New Jersey, which had since reverted to its original name, Willingboro, New Jersey, the book includes information relevant to Levitt & Sons development in general)

    Goetz, Sam, Bruno, 16 mm black and white film (2006) (Sam Goetz grew up in Lower Orchard section of Levittown, Pennsylvania; the production was filmed at locations in the "urban wasteland" of Trenton, New Jersey, and at locations in and around Levittown, including Core Creek Park, the former Best Department Store, Neshaminy High School and a Jubilee-style Levittown home)

    Hurst, Richard, " My Bat," Christopher Street (New York: February 1994, issue 210), ISSN 0146-7921 (written by a former Levittowner about Little League baseball, "the only tradition in our otherwise ahistoric lives of glass-ceiling experimental schools and clean theme-park summers," recounting summers marching as the season began from Carl Sandburg Middle School to the ball fields south of Twin Oaks)

    Kimmel, Chad, Levittown, Pennsylvania: A Sociological History, University of Western Michigan Dissertation (2004) (examines the arrival of Levittown's first African-American family, the 1979 gas riots and the decline of the steel industry on local residents)

    Krass, Alfred C., " Growing Together in Spirituality: Pastor and Parish Have a Check-Up," Christian Century, (April 1987) (Krass was pastor of the United Christian Church in Levittown, and still a resident of the community; he asks how mainstream Protestants might move beyond the "autonomy of the individual member" that is so often part and parcel of a liberal world view)

    Levittown: Voices of the Millennium (video), Harcourt School Publishers (no date)

    Popenoe, David, The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States, University of Chicago Press, (1977), ISBN 0-226-67542-4 (a comparison of Levittown, Pennsylvania, and Vällingby, Sweden, a Stockholm suburb of similar size, construction date and demographics; see also Hässelby-Vällingby Borough, Vällingby)

    Wechshler, Lewis, The First Stone: A Memoir of the Racial Integration of Levittown, Pennsylvania, Grounds for Growth Press (2004), ISBN 0-615-12565-4

    Wetherell, W.D., The Man Who Loved Levittown, University of Pittsburgh Press (1985), ISBN 0-8229-3520-1 (fiction, winner of the 1985 Drue Heinz Literature Prize)

    Wiessner, John, pen name Jay Dubya, author of 31 books. Lived in Dogwood Hollow from 1954-'59. His action/adventure work Black Leather and Blue Denim, A '50s Novel is set in Levittown, Pa.

    See also

    External links

    Schaefer, Mari A, "Levitt's Dream Town is Still a Draw," Philadelphia Inquirer, (December 7, 2005)

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