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December 20th, 2011
05:00 AM ET

Times are changing in the early 'all-alike' suburb Levittown

Editor's note: This is part of a series of stories about the changing American suburbs.

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Levittown, New York (CNN) - As Polly Dwyer drove from Queens, New York, to "the boondocks" of central Long Island, she felt like she'd fallen off the face of civilization.

"My God!" she thought. "Where are we going?!"

She stared out the windows of her husband's 1940s Chevy, aghast at the potato farms and cabbage fields. How were they going to live all the way out there, 45 minutes from the city? She was a college student, after all, not a farmer. And what would this new-era community be like, anyway?

The word "suburb" didn't even exist back then, in the late '40s and early '50s. It was a concept they would help create in a new community called Levittown.

More than 60 years later, Dwyer - an 83-year-old who wears a short, Janet Napolitano-style haircut and a gold necklace that says "Polly" in cursive - is firmly rooted in Levittown, New York, the place heralded as the first true example of an American suburb.

The suburban, auto-based ideal Levittown created in 1947 has plowed its way across the United States, reproducing "like a strange, unnatural new life form," Esquire magazine wrote in the '80s, in copycat communities from Florida to Alaska.

These days, however, times are changing. It's not that the suburb is dead, but in an era of home foreclosures, environmental concerns and urban revival, some Americans are starting to turn their backs on the Levittown mold. These changes are beginning to show in Levittown, too, a place that still longs for the sense of community and purpose that it had at its inception six decades ago.

Dwyer and other Levittown pioneers say they'll stay here until they die. But here's the uncomfortable truth:

The Levittown they knew may fizzle out with them.

'Our own square plot of land'

They saw the ad in the newspaper. New homes for World War II veterans: "All Yours For $58!"

It was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.

When the couple arrived in Levittown to look at the new-era community, with its Monopoly houses arranged on a membrane of elbowing streets and cul-de-sacs, Polly Dwyer was pregnant with her second child and eager for a change.

After her husband returned from war, they'd moved in with his parents, who rented a two-bedroom apartment in Queens. "That would have been enough to kill anybody's marriage," she said, laughing. The idea that she could own a home - her own four walls, without the in-laws, without the city noise - "seemed too good to be true."

"It was heaven," she said of Levittown. "Heaven, heaven. Our own square plot of land."

Polly Dwyer has lived in the same Levittown house for six decades.

A salesman drove the couple through town. He showed them a model home, a Cape Cod, which was one of two types of houses that the Levitt brothers - William, the promoter, and Arthur, the architect - gave as options.

Each one was just like the next: On the outside, two eye-like windows, one on each side of the front door, gave the Cape Cods a kind, anthropomorphic appearance; and inside, designers squished two bedrooms, one bath, a kitchen, a living room and a staircase to an unfinished attic into a 750-square-foot package - the size of a modern apartment.

There were slight external differences. Homebuyers could choose from one of five colors and one of five window-arrangement patterns.
But they were so similar that Dwyer had to look at her first home only from the curb.
"We actually didn't see the inside of the house," she said. "We had seen the inside of another Cape, and they said, 'Well, it's exactly the same.' "

They put $100 down on the $8,500 house (about $75,000 in today's currency).

They got that deposit back upon closing.

A new home 'every 15 minutes'

Levittown emerged from a need in America.

Thousands of veterans returned home from World War II to find that they had no place to live. Some were so hard off, they took shelter in chicken coops and tool sheds.

"From foxholes to shacks," one protest sign read. "We had more room in foxholes."

William Levitt had the answer: cheap housing on the city's fringe. His family company, Levitt & Sons Inc., purchased potato farms in central Long Island, near the town of Hicksville, and started to work building a new America.

This "cocky, rambunctious hustler with brown hair, cow-sad eyes, a hoarse voice (from smoking three packs of cigarettes a day)" aimed to make his company the "General Motors of the housing industry," Time magazine wrote in 1950.

He developed a new method of home construction to make it happen, producing housing components - from the plumbing to pieces of the frame - and then assembling them on-site. Each Levitt & Sons construction worker had one of 26 specified tasks, and they did them over and over again, which increased efficiency.

"A new (home) was finished every 15 minutes," Time wrote.

From 1947 to 1951, Levitt built more than 17,000 homes in Levittown. The U.S. Federal Housing Administration encouraged the boom by backing the mortgages of returning veterans, allowing them to put virtually no money down.

That let Dwyer and her husband chase a new American dream.

"The all-alike place"

Right from the start, Dwyer was weirded out by the sameness of Levittown.

"I was not impressed, frankly," she said. "I said, 'Oh, they're all alike. Look at 'em!' And we were just going to go in the middle of the all-alike place?

"But you settled in slowly, and then it became my life."

Photographer Bill Owens' 'Suburbia,' 40 years later

For decades, the "all-alike place" has been a stand-in for the suburban experience.

Dwyer and other longtime Levittown residents remember a tight-knit and restrictive community, where everyone was young, everyone had kids and everyone helped each other out in times of need. When Fred Johs needed help with a down payment for the house he was renting in the 1950s, for example, neighbors stepped in to help.

That gesture is the reason the 88-year-old is still in a Cape Cod home today.

The community was puppeteered by Levitt, who banned fences, installed swimming pools and village greens (Levitt-speak for strip malls) and required lawn maintenance.

Dwyer recalls getting an anonymous postcard in her mailbox on a day when her husband had parked their car on the front lawn because it wasn't working.

She recalls it saying, "You're not supposed to put cars on the lawn. It looks bad for the neighborhood."

Dwyer learned to live in the confines of Levitt's world.

And over time, she started to prefer it.

"Everybody wanted to be like everybody else," she said. "I wasn't a free thinker. I was very comfortable. I looked like everybody else; the houses looked like everybody else's. I was happy that way. I'm the kind of person who gets the furniture the way they like it, and I never change it."

'I barely know my neighbors'

The changes started slowly: a home addition here, new siding there.

Now, Levittown barely resembles its past.

Nearly all of Levittown's homes - all of which started out as Cape Cods, with their box-like symmetry, or ranches, which were slightly more rectangular - have been altered almost beyond recognition. The homes have had their frames stretched, pulled, pumped and popped to the point that they look like Cubist-painting versions of their former selves, additions and alterations jutting out in every which way from the same starter models.

Dwyer painted her Cape Cod yellow, tacked on additions for things as large as new bedrooms and as small as solar water heaters and refrigerators.

This year, she added a porch on the front.

The change has had social as well as aesthetic ramifications. Levitt homes were so small that they forced people to socialize.

Now, with large homes and plenty of creature comforts, few venture outside during the day. "It's so different now," Dwyer said. "I barely know my neighbors."

Levittown, New York, pioneered suburban development in America.

There were financial consequences, too.

Marion Gilbert, an 86-year-old who moved to Levittown in 1949 and has been in the same ranch-style home since, worries that her family members will have to leave Levittown - perhaps all of Long Island, for that matter - because homes are so costly. These days, the commute into the city can take hours.

Her son-in-law and two of her grandchildren are out of work because of the Wall Street crash a few years ago. Right now, amazingly, all of her 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren live within a 10-minute drive of her home. But she fears that will change.
The suburban dream isn't the same for them, she said.

"It'll never happen again," she said of the suburban boom.

And that's too bad: "It was a much nicer way of living."

'They were all like me, unfortunately'

In other ways, Levittown has been a stalwart, resistant to change.

Dwyer, for example, has never has had a friend from a racial minority.

"They were all like me, unfortunately," she said of her friends in Levittown.

That's not as much her fault as it is the consequence of Levittown's original leases, which declared: "The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race."

Levittown was a white-only community. And it largely remains so today. Eighty-nine percent of Levittown residents identify as white, according to the Census's community profile on Levittown.

That bucks a national trend. In 1990, 19% of suburban residents were minorities; in 2010, that number is 35%, according to an analysis from the Brookings Institution.

"You might find more diversity in suburbs than in center cities in some places," particularly because immigrants are increasingly moving straight to the suburbs instead of to the inner city, said June Williamson, an associate professor of architecture at the City College of New York and author of the book "Retrofitting Suburbia."

Brookings' William Frey said suburbs used to be associated with the white middle class. That's no longer the case: "The suburbs are kind of a microcosm of America. It used to be, when you said you lived in the suburbs, you were telling somebody something about who you are demographically, and now you're not telling anything about who you are."

There are some signs that Levittown's white-only façade is cracking, too.

Younger residents have a larger minority contingent than older residents, according to 2010 Census data.

Several Asian- and Indian-owned businesses have opened on the fringe of town.

There aren't exactly racial tensions in Levittown, just a lack of understanding, said Lara Lineman, 24, who was adopted from Asia by white parents.

Kids teased her about her ethnicity when she was growing up, she said.

"Levittown is just mostly a white town, and people aren't used to that much diversity," she said, "at least not when I was growing up."

Dwyer recalled race being a hot-button issue in early Levittown.

A Chinese family created a stir when it moved onto her block in the 1960s.

"The next day, on either side, for sale signs went up," Dwyer said. "At the time, I must say, I was relieved they didn't move closer to me."
She's since changed her attitudes - or at least has tried.

The Attention Clinic

It's a hot issue in academia to think about what suburbs may become.

An upcoming exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art, called Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, proposes several visions, including one that would integrate nature more sustainably into the suburbs and another that would try to make suburban neighborhoods denser.

Something has to change, said Barry Bergdoll, MoMA's curator for architecture and design, or we will "roll the suburban carpet across all the open land that is left."

"It's just irresponsible to have a model that encourages moving out onto green fields and leaving behind decaying rings of an ever-fattening tree," he said. "I'm interested in not just letting the path of least resistance exist. It's cheaper for a developer to build on virgin territory, but it's not cheaper for people to live on it or get to it."

This year, another group of designers descended on Levittown to imagine "a future suburbia" in the place where the concept was hatched.

Dwyer found all this "very strange," but she agreed to participate.

For a day, a designer named Claudia Linders turned Dwyer's Levitt home into an "Attention Clinic." Patrons sat in her living room and waited for a chance to receive advice, attention and/or hugs from Dwyer and two actors.

The idea was to make suburbia profitable rather than just a place where people live.

"They kept choosing me (for advice), I guess because I was older and wiser," Dwyer said, cracking a smile. "Because these actresses, they were beautiful."

All this attention confused Dwyer, who said she was happy to give out advice to strangers but felt somewhat unqualified to make life decisions for them.

One woman came to her in a panic, she said, asking whether she should stay with her current job or follow a whim and travel the country, which she's always wanted to do.

Dwyer's advice - brewed from decades of living in a community that values sameness and conformity over adventure and change - was to stick with what works:

"I'd say, 'Well, stay there.' "

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Filed under: Black in America • Census • Community • Ethnicity • History • How we live • Race • Where we live • Who we are
soundoff (139 Responses)
  1. thebigB

    Hmm. Maybe I'm not understanding but I have some issues with this article. What about the San Fernando Valley in LA County? It was built up in the late1800 and early 1900s. Also, around 1909, the "Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company" acquired much of the land of the valley. So obviously the term "suburban" had been around before the 40s.

    December 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • goh

      Yes the problem is with your understanding. They said the word SUBURB did'nt exist until Levittown. You misundertand it as suburban. One is a noun, one is an adjective, ask a kid to tell you which one is which

      December 20, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PoBoy

    "The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race." Interesting, since NY was supposedly a 'free' state and we had just witnessed one of the greatest bigoted atrocities the world had ever known in the Holocaust. I guess if we black folk weren't good enough to fight along side whites during the war, we certainly weren't good enough to live along side them. Unbelievable!

    December 20, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      I know, it's disgusting. I'm white, and cannot fathom treating anyone like that. Just shows how far as a nation we have come. I can understand prefering one culture over another, or being more attracted to one race over another, but I will never understand hating a race or thinking they are inferior. Human is human, plain and simple.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • HU

        We haven't come far at all. All white communities still exist, just not explicitly. Whites are now moving to "exurbs" to get away from the minority intrusion into their sacred suburbs.

        December 20, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Get over it. It was a long time ago, and letting this crap fester for 70 years is helping no one.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • Kellyw

        @Bill "Get over it. It was a long time ago, and letting this crap fester for 70 years is helping no one."

        This argument is so poor and usually held when a Black states something about existing or residual racism. It is OUR (yours and mine) history. You can't just start at a point and declare anything beyond it null and void. The commenter was making a comment on a story that did include a racist point of view. Tell the author to get over it, oh, wait, its part of the essence of the article. It described a detail about Levittown. The featured woman in the article is still trying to change her mind about race. Do you think she is alone? Broaden your horizons enough to know that while festering is not good, obliterating will not help either, its why we have history books. And, I wonder if we were talking about the Holocaust, would your comment be the same or "Get over it?".

        December 20, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      "Free" hardly means "equal." There's a reason the Civil Rights movement in the 60s was so historic and difficult- the issues had been simmering all over and the north was just as racist as the south.

      It's always a struggle over whether we need to keep our kids safe or sanitized- keeping them in nurseries their whole lives leaves them unable to deal with real issues as adults.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      This stuff interests me too. For some reason I was raised thinking America's racial problems pretty much ended with the civil war. But over time I have learned (not just from this article) that America was still essentially an apartheid nation just 50 years ago. Not even a life time. Who is this nation I thought I knew?

      December 20, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skeets

      It was even worse in the south and for returning black veterans. Imagine having risked your life for a country that forced you to sit in the back of the bus, among other terribly indignities.

      December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. d

    suck

    December 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. d

    Why not write some news. Just more drivel. This article has been written 50 times in the last 30 years

    December 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. df1chicago

    this story ends so sadly... if given the chance to see the world,why not take it? you only go around once... the advise the elder lady gave to stay put is terrible. the younger lady will end up regretting that...

    December 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Desertarea

      Don't be to sure. I was lucky to be able to retire at 39, have a sailboat built and spend the next 27 years cruising all over the world. It was a terrific life. I retired from cruising and live in a great desert town in a great house. I was lucky in investments, planned, and lived within my means. Now, how about many of the others I met and got to know, who were off "seeing the world". Many sold everything they owned to "follow their dream". Many have returned home to find they were left behind by inflation and a changing economy. They can not compete for jobs against younger workers in a new environment. They can never rent or own a home like they left. They will live in poverty for the rest of their lives. Every change in life has the potential to be bad, as much as it has the potential to be good. So, don't rush out and "grab life" and run. Be sure of what you are doing and not just act impulsively. Maybe you will be as fortunate as I have been. But, maybe not.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Will

    Want to know why young people aren't buying houses any more?

    "They put $100 down on the $8,500 house (about $75,000 in today's currency)."

    What house can you buy that'd even be habitable, and that's not in a slum or 50 miles away from the nearest city, for $75000? How much would a comparable house sell for on Long Island now, $350000? Forget buying a house if you have anything less than a graduate degree, much less if you're a blue collar worker. If you aren't a doctor/stock broker/lawyer/engineer, you're f(#*ked, no matter how hard you work..

    December 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      Advice Wiil, work hard.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • obbop

        "Advice Wiil, work hard."

        My advice is to work smart.

        I worked "hard" for decades and created wealth for others.

        Perhaps if I had worked "smart" I might have created wealth for myself.

        Semantics.... yes.

        But, with thought, the truth I am attempting to convey may be revealed or, for those with the same or similar life experiences I have immersed within the working-poor socio-economic cohort, be readily apparent.

        "The USA needs ditch diggers also."

        Propaganda.

        Implanted tripe used by those who have created vast infrastructures created to ensure the continuous upward flow of wealth to the apex of the socio-economic pyramid-shaped hierarchy AND to corporate USA.

        "There's class warfare, all right, Mr. (Warren) Buffett said, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

        "There has been class warfare going on," Buffett, 81, said in a Sept. 30 interview with Charlie Rose on PBS. It's just that my class is winning. And my class isn't just winning, I mean we're killing them."

        "My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress." – Billionaire Warren Buffett, in a New York Times op-ed on Aug. 15.

        December 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      That is not true at all, I live in an area were housing is cheaper, I got a nice house for 70k, and payed it off really early but not spending my money on other things. It's all about priorities. If you want it enough, you will work for it and put off other things for it. In the long run, a house is cheaper then an apartment.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • KPMCO

      I think you're very sadly mistaken. My mother had a high school diploma, was divorced, and still saved to purchase her own home in Houston. I moved to Florida, and after 10 years of saving, and waiting for the right opportunity, I have also purchased my own home. I have a bachelor's degree in English...and have worked in call centers among other places, to earn a living. Stop thinking that you have to be extremely wealthy to own a nice home. I saved a lot...up to 20% of my income...didn't buy a lot of electronics or fancy clothes, new cars, or ate out as much as my friends do. I still socialize, but in simpler ways..a video, card games, pot luck social dinners. All things are possible, but you need to prioritize and make choices to achieve your goals.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Houstonian

      You can get a decent house in any Houston suburb for $75,000, today. Much more than 750 square feet too. The economy did not take as much of a hit as the rest of the country here, but it still took a hit. So, there are jobs here as well. I grew up on Long Island and now live in a Houston suburb. Not sure why so many people still stay in New York, when it is unrealistically expensive.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ziggy Stardust

        Houston is a dump with the worst weather on the planet next to the miserable jungle in Vietnam. They also appear to have no zoning there, you often see a body shop or dry cleaners next to a home in what appears to be a residential neighborhood. What hicks in the rest of the country don't seem to understand about living in the Northeast is the opportunity to make big money here. I worked in Venture Capital for 15 years in NYC, made a boatload of money, had a big house in CT, cars, the dream. Then it all came crashing down in 2008. I sold everything I could and moved to Wyoming where I now work as a tile setter (my dad tought me the trade when I was a kid) I couldn't be happier. I miss all the toys, but life is good. Wyoming is breathtakingly beautiful Houston is just breathtaking (FROM THE STENCH)

        December 20, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • John

        Try getting rid of that $300 computer phone, the $150/month text/talk/data plan, down grade to "just" the 3-30 Mbps internet access (about $50 saving), buy a coffee pot and save the $8 coffees 3 times a day......
        Oh, you might have to move to a different place to find a better paying job. I know, terrifiing to think you'd have to move away from your folks. Learn an actual skill instead of just hanging out after school.
        There are very many ways to get the house you want and can afford. Unfortunately, all those ways involve work of some sort, so most will just whine about how unfair life is.

        December 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lesley

      I'm a 23 year old homeowner. I live in a 1400 sq ft house on 2 acres with an inground pool in mid-Michigan. We paid $79,700 for it because the housing market is so bad in Michigan. I am an insurance agent and my husband is a factory worker (no degrees). The only reason none of my friends have a home is because THEY RUINED THEIR CREDIT. Even the ones with college degrees. Our house payment is $605 a month. I could work part-time and my husband could lose his job and we would still afford it. It's all about living within your means.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ann

        Good for you, Lesley! Congratulations!

        December 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      I've never made more than $7 an hour in my life...was retired by cancer in 1999...but picked up a nice home (to me) in a 30 year old subdivision in Colorado Springs back in 1986 for just under $50,000. Price have gone up but so have wages. If I sold my 850k home in L.A., 1700 sq ft, I could buy 4 of those here in Bryan Texas with the same money. This isn't a small town...Bryan/College Station together add up to close to 250,000 people. Dump your toys with their 2 year plans and save that money instead. Realize too that most of the US is nothing like NYC or LA. Oddly there's a link between liberal cities and absurdly high real estate. There's more to the US than the place you wake up to every morning. Opportunities are everywhere.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • RichP

      It is all a matter of priorities. We built and bought our home in 1985, had two kids, raised them, they just finished college and are out looking for jobs. My last new car was a 98 Jeep Cherokee that I am still driving at 380,000mi and one engine.
      As for Long Island, last time I looked there, my wife's family are all from that area, the taxes were more than half the mortgage but that's what comes with a corrupt govt and union dominated area.
      The Jersey shore was another example of an area that exploded in the 50's and 60's, 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2 car garage split level went for $25K in 59.
      I was always impressed what my wife's aunt and uncle did with their cape cod and even after a dozen trips out there I would still get lost in that maze of roads.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JusDav

      Hey Will,

      Well, you do not have to live next to a million (or ten million) people to be happy and productive.
      I just purchased a home in the Midwest. Three bedrooms, one bath 1250 square foot with a 1150 square foot garage / shop.
      It is over a hundred years old, but in very nice shape. new thermo windows, vinyl siding.

      Cost 35000. Cost is only 200 a month with 5% down payment. HS diploma, average to lower average income.

      So, if you feel you deserve a quarter million dollar home / mansion, maybe you need to tone down your feelings a bit and join the real world.

      peace out
      JusDav

      December 20, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • guest

      actually, you are wrong about who can afford these houses. i live in another central long island suburb and i can tell you that the only people who can afford houses now are plumbers, electricians, any other skilled blue collar workers, and central american or south asian immigrants who are shopkeepers. most "white collar" people are earning far less money and can't afford to move here

      December 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marky

      Where we live (the Dallas area) housing is not terribly expensive. My daughter has a house that would cost about 80-85K, and the schools are very good, the shopping is great, and there is public transportation not only in our city, but pretty much anywhere in Dallas. She could live in a bigger, nicer house if they were more careful in their spending, but the one they have is 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom. They prefer to spend their money on traveling and "stuff"; their choice. People today also think they have to have 3000 sq. ft for 4 people, and back in the day, we grew up in 700 sq ft, and didn't think it was too small for 4 people. Focus on what you are spending on, and think about what your priorities should be.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      I can tell you the pricing on houses in Levittown went through the roof in the late 80's to mid 90's.
      I moved out of state and in the late 90's, my parents sold their house to be near me in PA. They sold for more than the 350,000 you put in your repsonse.

      It's rather disgusting with pricing of homes.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Uh, I'm a high school drop out and have already owned 3 homes. I now live in Orlando, work at home on my 3 dozen websites and will buy another home in 2012 before they go up again. How much you make or how successful in life you are depends on you, not what school you went to.

      December 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • John

        See, Bill learned a skill and became successful. Notice he is not occupying anything crying about how unfair it all is. Hell, if he keeps at it with his stated work ethics, he may become one of the 1%. A little published fact that the liberal media is trying to bury – 80% of the 1% started their own businesses, built them from the ground up. But we don't want people to think they can work hard an be successful. You must receive free hand outs!!!

        December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Actually Will is right. I live 3 mins from Levittown. All of the houses are around $400k and the taxes average about $10k per year. Where Will is wrong is in regards to who actually live there. Its cops and teachers. They are the only ones that can afford it. Cops and teachers make 6 figures on Long Island. Thank you Unions. Notice all of the people replying to Will say they bought houses for $75k? Notice how none of them are from Blue states?

      December 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • Levittown2011

        I live in a Basic Levittown home My school tax bill is $ 8427 My county taxes are $ 3486 can you please add those 2 figures up to a total of $10K ? No it is $ 11,913

        March 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. danny

    There are some suburbs on the north shore of Nassau where I grew up that are still beautiful.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • AG

      No sh!t they're still beautiful Danny, the North Shore is where all the money is! Please don't think that communities like Roslyn, Glen Cove, Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasett, etc. are like every other place.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ravi in Aberdeen, NJ

    Levitt brothers built another 'Levittown' in Abaerdeen, NJ in Monmouth county. They look strikingly similar to Levittown in Long Island, NY. They were built around the same time, 1950's. My white neighbor had never seen a non-white until late 90's!

    December 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prefab_expert

      While there may be some duplicated designs, the Levitt model is a good model that would lower construction of house by over 20%. A house can be built in 30 days with much less wasted raw material is always a cost-saving and good environment advancement. The US construction is too lazy to learn more from the Levitt model.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
      • Lukos

        You are clearly a chinese poster. Why don't you leave your slander at home and leave discussion of American communities to those who have first-hand knowledge of the US rather than regurgitate communist propaganda?

        December 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
      • Laughing Cow

        It is very apparent that you are uneducated on the DEVASTATING effect of the suburban model in todays society.
        It affected gender roles and pollution sky-rocketed because they through these homes up with NO regard to solar orientation and etc. It increased dependency on the car and was a nightmare for the family that had one car... which was almost everyone...
        Not only that it also decreased the amount of diversity in a given area which has added to more social problems in our communities

        December 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
      • KPMCO

        Actually...the Levitt model isn't bad. People complaining about it assume that everyone who buys one wants to work in the city. The suburbs have developed their own economies, business structures, schools and shopping, and other amenities. It allows smaller towns to grow and develop into more urbanized communities.

        As far as pre-fab construction. there is nothing wrong with it, so long as it abides by building codes. My home in Florida requires cinderblock framing for the ground floor...for hurricane resistance. Even though we're more than 50 miles from the coast, it's just the way it is here. Many people assume that something different is always bad. That's not the case. The house is gorgeous, with a nice stucco exterior, and nice finishes inside. It was still relatively affordable for a brand new house...and would have been less had I not had a porch, lanai, or extra room added.

        I agree that a LOT of new constructions are wasteful, and people worry more about getting granite counter tops, high end appliances, upgraded fixtures, etc....instead of getting something more functional and workable. That's what many people want, but they shouldn't be complaining when their mortgage is much higher than mine or can't afford their "dream house". Cookie cutter houses are fine if that is what is in your budget. I won't complain about them. 🙂

        December 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • Urban History

        Actually, I think the a major part of the whole Levitt phenomenom was that they invented this easy, fast way to build inexpensive homes. There was a huge housing shortage in the country at that time, and that problem could have been solved, and houses would have been less expensive today, had the concept been allowed to expand. However, the building industry was horrified at the idea of "prefabs," since 'it didn't want to have its profit margin cut, and worked to stifle the Levitt building concept by lobbying the government to enact legislation against "prefabricated".

        December 25, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  9. CR

    I have lived in Levittown my entire life, when I got married I bought a Levittown Cape and we love it. The cookie cutter houses are gone, every single house on my block is different and people keep finding new ways to change them and make them more interesting looking. I for instance have three extension on my house. The houses are unrecognizable from the original box. It was a beginning and all towns have to start somewhere, and this one has come a long way.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. steve

    Aahh! The greatest generation. Gotta love em with their restrictive communities and racism. I am happy to see it go away...

    December 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donovan

      The Levitt's weren't part of that generation, but the one before it. The greatest generation is the only reason you're not speaking German right now and running a furnace for Jews. What have you done for humanity?

      December 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • Skip P

        Well stated! Thank you, you sound very wise.

        December 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
      • Adam smith

        The millions of Russians who lost their homes, children, and livelihoods might take offense to that. Contrary to the "Greatest Generation" myth the European population sacrificed a lot more than the average American in World War II. However, the phrase "We won the war" has gained popularity (Even though it's very exaggerated).

        December 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Strange history

    That's called MCMANSION...

    December 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • URDumb

      Do you have any idea what you are talking about? A McMansion that is not.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • what?

      McMansion? What part of 750 square feet sounds like a mansion to you? My GARAGE is about that size.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Child of Levittown

      Grew up in the original Levittown. There are no "McMansions" there. Never were. Never could be.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. musings

    Why CNN does not teach American Studies: The first suburbs were "Streetcar Suburbs" NOT car suburbs. I live in one, and believe me, it is mostly houses – but they are from the 1880's and they were purpose-built to coordinate with the streetcar (now subway) system. Los Angeles was built up in the same fashion long before everyone drove cars.

    So those songs about ticky tacky boxes – well that historical revisionism.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoBoy

      Not many people ready CNN for a history lesson. You should probably read a history book or go the History Channel website for that.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • vintage274

      I, too, was reared in the same streetcar suburb as my mother. Housing was a mix of single family and apartment buildings with many more trees than the city. Houses varied from some streets that contained row-type houses to others with spacious Victorians. Each of those suburbs had a main street with needed businesses, but most men went into the city or off to the industrial section for daily work. Our family home was built just after the change of the century. In the 1950s the "real" suburbs popped up out on the edge of the farms. They had no apartment buildings, no main streets. Each single family home had both a front and back lawn and a garage. They were typically smaller than the streetcar suburb houses, but boasted modern conveniences. Strip malls were the rage (though limited to one complex for evey ten or so communities) and contained a branch of at least one large downtown department store, a family shoe store, and a pharmacy of some sort. Large groceries were nearby, but not a part of the malls. In the 60s large indoor malls became the rage as well, and big cities boasted one in each georgraphical direction. Although Levittown is a suburban icon in America, it was not the model all over the country. The suburb I lived in as a teen in Pennsylvania (built in the 1940s) offered larger houses than the Levittown model (usually 3 bedroom) which were generally built of brick and offered in a vaiety of architectural styles - ranch, Cape Cod, two story, split level - carefully interspersed to add variety to the neighborhood.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drowlord

      Not a history lesson... journalism lessons. Wouldn't hurt them to do a LOT MORE on most of their stories to try and get facts straight.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • batjones

      I believe the note from Musings captures my initial thoughts on the first suburbs. Many of the communities in Bergen County were built around the railroad commuter trains that lead into New York City during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some of the lines still exist. This article caputures a second wave of real estate boom after WWII.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Urbanista

      Yes and no, while the word suburb had existed for about a century to denote such a place, it did not really define a specific place to live for Americans until post-war. You either lived on the outskirts of the city proper (streetcar suburbs) or in an actual town outside the city (commuter town). The distance and general cost factor would have prohibited many people, even well-off, from considering the pre-war suburb. This is because then, most economic activity, jobs, retail, etc happened near the core (downtown). You also have to consider, today a suburb indicates a politically independent place with a large land mass, whereas back then many suburbs eventually were annexed into the major city.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Alex

    Patrick, you wrote:
    "Yes, before the late 60's, non-urban america was a wonderland for black families... I think it was in the 50's as well.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
  14. Penny Nickels

    Is that a video camera on the roof at the far right of the 2011 photo? Looks like crime may have increased in Levittown too. Yep, times have changed.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Beelzel

      Good catch, but the shadow looks more like a TV dish. Just caught it (or maybe pohtoshopped out) at an extreme angle.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rod C. Venger

      There's a line going to it, black, barely visible, that leads me to think it's just a power/cable/telephone line junction. Another thought was a weather station.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stacy

      No, it's not a video camera, look again!

      December 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • AgathaMystery

      The post is in the original picture as well. I'm sure it's a stub of some sort to bring in electricity into the house.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Child of Levittown

      No. That's the pole the old television antennae used to be perched on.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fenceless

      I'm a current Levittown resident. Crime is not a problem at all in this neighborhood - safety is a major draw, in fact. Levittown is still known as a "blue-collar" neighborhood by Nassau County standards but it is very safe (home prices of only $350k and taxes of only $9k a year... what a bargain!) Nearly all powerlines are above ground in Levittown, and my cape (which looks just like the one in the picture), has the same wood post with powerlines going up the right side of the house. It's unsightly, but it's definitely not a video camera.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
      • Rod C. Venger

        Sorry but 9k/year in taxes isn't much of a bargain. We're $1200/year for 850k in L.A. and $400/year on $90k in another home in Texas.

        December 20, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
      • Fenceless

        Rod,
        It was sarcasm about the taxes 😉 Ltown is taxed mercilessly, as is most of Nassau County.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
      • AG

        Rod, look up the term for SARCASM when you have a chance.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
      • Levittown2011

        Fenceless does not live in Levitton NY..

        I live in a Basic Levittown home My school tax bill is $ 8427 My county taxes are $ 3486 can you please add those 2 figures up to a total of $10K ? No it is $ 11,913

        March 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim P.

    "The word "suburb" didn't even exist back then, in the late '40s and early '50s"

    Yes it did. The word was in use in the 1890's certainly and possibly earlier. Heck, the Chevy Suburban has been made since the 1930's I think....1935 to be exact.

    Bad writer, no cookie!

    December 20, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  16. Penny Nickels

    "Levittown was a white-only community. And it largely remains so today. Eighty-nine percent of Levittown residents identify as white...."

    Sounds like a lily white community. Hope they aren't (too) racist.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Why do people have to bring up the race card in everything? Maybe look in the mirror and ask yourself who the racist person is.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
      • MHN

        "Why... bring up the race card..."

        Because it's a part of the history and fabric of the United States. Did you read the article? The original inhabitants of Levittown had to sign a lease that wouldn't even allow them to host a non-white family in their homes.

        Would you prefer to ignore the reality that motivates a lt of American opinion? I'm guessing yes because it makes you uncomfortable.

        December 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee S

      Most black neighborhoods have about the same ratio the other way around, but you dont hear us complaining.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • For real?

        Yeah, because you are dying to live there, huh?

        December 20, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Since 12.5% of the population is black, it sounds like it's an average mix for a town.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • AG

      Good one bigot! I live right next to Levittown and the whole area is as blue-collar middle class as it comes for a large metro area. The town next to me is predominately black (I live between them). Show me a town thats 50/50 black/white, right it doesn't exist. Most of the original houses have extensions and many of them are fairly new. I disagree that the suburbs are dying, they're just evolving but holding the same feel to them. In the past few years there was plans for a $3.8 BILLION buildup, which was completely shot down. The reason, we're Long Island not NYC, there's no place for mass buildup in the burbs.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Mike

    I live on Long Island and we looked in Levittown during the Real Estate boon... Everything was expensive. These homes are like human prisons. No light enters, because of the tiny windows. The design of these homes includes giant poles and fireplaces running upstairs in the most awkward places. Also the ceilings oar low and rounded, dormered on the second floor. Ugly Ugly Ugly. The town should be burned down.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • WCB

      This was the "best life" for its time. I grew up in a similar home in Cleveland in the 50's and we enjoyed it and our neighbors. So many people think they need a McMansion to raise a family and the question is why? All that money and house for what? Millions of people grew up in "Levittowns" and enjoyed the good life that it had to offer. Tear it down..why? Because it doesn't meet your preconceived idea of what a home is? This is part of the economic problem of foreclosure that wehave today–people living well beyond their needs and means.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
      • Beth

        Well said, well said!!

        December 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • kd

      I don't know what house you looked at in Levittown but the house I bought last year in Levittown looks nothing like that. Nor did any of the Levittown houses I looked at. I live in a basic Levit with no dormer or extension. And honestly if it wasn't for Levittown we probably would have moved out of state because we couldn't afford nor wanted a 6 bedroom house with the taxes being 12,000.The commute is easy into the city and town has everything we need. I would like to add that I was 24 years old when I bought my house and I have worked very hard for my house and I am very proud of owning my house, Along with many Levittown owners. So before you put down a whole town maybe you should take the whole picture into consideration and not base it off one experience.

      December 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
      • Barb

        In response to kd's comment about taxes being $12,000 a year and no one having mentioned it, I did allude to my property taxes tripling in Levittown in 3 years when Nassau County reassessed all the homes on L.I., and that's when I left. The high property taxes have everything to do with the salaries of school employees being the HIGHEST in Nassau County, on par with affluent neighborhoods like Great Neck. The superintendent of schools made close to 400K a year, retired at 80% of that, and when he dies, his wife continues to receive his pension. School taxes are the reason why Levittown is so expensive to live. I bought in the district for the schools, knowing they hire and pay for the best teachers. When my child graduated HS and then SUNY, I got out.

        December 22, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
      • Levittown2011

        On Drc. 22nd I mentioned it and more!

        It does not appear that anyone who has posted what has happened in Levittown or the current decaying condition that will lead to it's future death. The average taxes of a home in Levittown is currently 12,000 a year in 2011. The taxes of a Levittown home will be 20,000 a year in 2020. There are 17,286 homes in Levittown and over 2,000 of them are in some form of foreclosure today the highest of any town on Long Island. The town has lost most of it's retail business due to the high Levittown School District taxes which are currently a average of 8,500 of the 12,000 2011 taxes. The Levittown School District Teachers Union is currently in the 10th year of a average 7.5% raise each year which has or will double all their salaries in just 9 years. You hear about how teachers do not get a fair salary across america, that is true for every teacher that does not work in Levittown. The community asked the teachers union to take a pay freeze for the last 2 years and the teachers union only statement was that " They did not cause the economic crisis in America, why should we take a pay freeze? " The current yearly school budget is 200 Million a year. Of the 600 current teachers employed in Levittown 375 are paid a least 135,000 a year. The condition of the homes has declined over the last couple years due to the high cost of the taxes and you can drive down any street and view the homes that are falling apart before your eyes. The american dream is dead in Levittown and it has turned into the american nightmare. The fraud has been revealed that the school district does match up to exceed other surrounding school districts that have better education provided at lower cost to the homeowners in their towns. The teachers salaries make up 80% of the yearly school budget and as a current board member stated this year " I had to explain to my children that they will not have the same education that other children had in the past, they will has less and the community will pay more for it due to the teachers salaries that will always be increasing due to what has been done in the past." The teachers salaries and retirement add a 4% increase to the school budget each year. The new New York state law of a 2% school tax cap may save other school districts, but it came 10 years too late for Levittown. People have posted what the current price of a Levitt home is it is between 250,000 and 300,000 today but it was over 500,000 just 6 years ago when the real estate market was at it's peak.

        December 22, 2011 at 12:28 am

        March 22, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Uncle Owen

    Technically, shouldn't Plymouth MA be considered the oldest suburb in the US? It's a suburb of Boston and was settled in 1620.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Boston wasn't founded founded until 1630. And for a time, they were two seperate colonies. Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Bay Colony

      December 20, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • musings

      You're onto something in that Levittown was not the "first suburb". The suburbs were built in the late 19th century in coordination with streetcars tracks being sent out all over. It's how Henry Huntington of LA made his bread – LA was full of streetcar tracks the suburbs built on them. I live in Newton, Massachusetts – same story. Now the streetcars have largely been replaced in LA by freeways and more suburbia, and in Boston by the "T" which works with the subway system. But suburbia is NOT a fifties phenomenon. It's just that more recent immigrants thought so when they left their urban ghettoes.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Uncle Owen

        I park at Newton Highlands and take the D Green Line in to Fenway when I go to see the Sox play. The Boston T system is great, LA really should build something like it to cut down on traffic.

        December 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Errogant 2

      Plymouth was settled long before Boston, making Boston a suburb of Plymouth.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Barnacle Bill

    "They put $100 down on the $8,500 house (about $75,000 in today's currency)."

    Part of the problem in today's market is houses are way overpriced for what you get. Blame investors for driving prices up.

    "The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race."

    You would think that the nice Jewish boys would have learned from their own history about discrimination, and not blatantly ignored it. Tsk, tsk.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  20. HuntingtonLady

    Levittown is an armpit now. Hope all suburbs do not turn into it.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • cdw

      You obviously didn't grow up during hard times. That you could even make a comment like that is beyond me. I grew up in Cottage Grove, MN with the same type of scenario. The homes were built between 1955 – 1965. They were larger than the Levittown homes, we had 3 BR ramblers. About 1400 SF. We were classified as a suburb because we were located 25 miles south of St. Paul, MN. It was the best type of environment for raising families and socialization, unlike the uppity ones (like yourself) that thought just junk lived outside the St. Paul city proper. You should be ashamed.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • NNJ

        I love my Orrin Thompson home!

        December 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      I grew up in Levittown, my mom 82 still lives proudly in the house that she and my dad, a WWII Vet, bought together over 60 years ago. They raised six successful and productive children in the "armpit". Now she watches the many children being raised there today play in front of her house like her own kids did decades ago. Maybe the "armpit' really live in your heart.

      December 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. KCRick

    We all lived in the same kind of houses in the 50's. My version was in a Pittsburgh suburb. Our attic was finished and man was it hot up there in the summer. Used to put fans in both windows. You could not hide in that house. One TV, homework on the kitchen table, one bathroom, and if you were lucky an unattached garage for one car.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Exactly. And somehow, we survived and even thrived. Now these yentas need to have a 3,000 square foot house with 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms for 1 or 2 children. They won't consider less, even though they can't afford it. Gotta keep up with the Joneses...

      December 20, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
      • KPMCO

        I would not make assumptions like that Marcus. I am single, no children, and bought a 4 BR house. Know why? ROOMMATES! Do you realize how little I pay out of pocket every month for my mortgage and utilities? I put my extra money toward the principal to pay the house off faster. Sometimes it's not about keeping up with the Joneses. It's about financial realities and being smart enough to know what I am able to afford alone...and then maximizing it so I can pay it off as fast as I can.

        My roommates help with housework, maintenance, and even watching the dogs when I am not home. It's like a small family here. I expect to have this house paid off within 8-10 years if I can do it. Can you say that?

        December 20, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Obviously the author was never in Levittown. The village green(still there) was(is) not a strip mall. A village green had(still has) 3 building . Back in the day there was a grocery store in 1, a drug store in another and deli,pizza parlor,bar in the 3rd. Behind the buildings was a sand fillled playground. Behind that was the community pool. As a kid you would go from the pool to the pizza parlor, get a slice and soda for 25cents,shoot some hoops and then head back to the pool. There were located all throughout Levittown, walking distance. Some village greens had a baseball field or bowling alley.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      Obviously the author was never in Levittown. The village green(still there) was(is) not a strip mall. A village green had(still has) 3 building . Back in the day there was a grocery store in 1, a drug store in another and deli,pizza parlor,bar in the 3rd. Behind the buildings was a sand fillled playground. Behind that was the community pool. As a kid you would go from the pool to the pizza parlor, get a slice and soda for 25cents,shoot some hoops and then head back to the pool. There were located all throughout Levittown, walking distance. Some village greens had a baseball field or bowling

      December 20, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  22. denise

    My parents moved to Levittown in 1953. 62 Sunrise Highway. About 7 years ago I drove back and saw a palatial two story addition added to the little cape cod. Only the house across the street looked the way the houses had been originally built. I remember walking to the green with my sister and mom to go to the swimming pool, and my sister and I walking by ourselves to the little grocery store on the green.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      I think you meant Sunrise Lane! haha my best friend growing up lived on that street.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  23. sam

    Cape Cods? LOL, none of the houses in Cape Cod look like that XD

    December 20, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Melissa

      There are quite a few in the Brewster area that do or originally did. I don't doubt they were altered over time as the one in the article was, too.

      (her updates are adorable, IMHO).

      December 20, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • James Harrison - Saint Petersburg, FL

      I grew up on the Cape, what are you talking about?

      December 20, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  24. Hank Lauritsen

    One of many things that would not have happened without "Big Govt" backing. They are the job creater, behind our progress in my lifetime of depression kid, WWII vet, GI bill etc.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      While true, but the original idea was private business. The government played a reserve role, one that they did wonderfully at.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • musings

      Decisions were made after WWII to create a consumer society around suburbs, cheap gasoline and "national defense highways".

      But there were real suburbs long before most people drove cars: streetcar tracks were everywhere in LA and in the East they coordinated with commuter trains. This phenomenon dates back to the 1880's. I live in such a neighborhood and it still works much better than the one I grew up in, Anaheim, California (a typical 50's suburb).

      Suburbs would be great if there was a lot of public transportation that linked them efficiently with cities nearby. I love my Boston suburb and it is much simpler to get downtown than it is if you live in LA and have to sit in traffic on the freeway. I keep sampling and comparing the two since my family still lives in LA: Boston wins.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
      • RichP

        The downside of Boston is they need to teach the drivers to use those signals that come stock on cars and the rear view mirrors, not all of out of staters drive by ESP when we are up there. :-))))

        December 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  25. joe

    The house looked A LOT better in 1955. Why is the 2011 version filmed in Black and White, and how did they get such fantastic color in 1955?

    December 20, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • luvar

      Spike, comment below, has to be right. They've got it backwards.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The 2011 picture IS color. The Cape Cod (B/W) was the 1955 version.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      The black and white is 1955

      December 20, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  26. Race Card?

    Blacks were making inroads into the suburbs as times were a changing in the late 50s-mid 60s. Then, with the blink of an eye, drugs began to tear the black family apart. As the corrupt culture of the late 60s started a downward spiral of dependence and fatherless households, the stream of blacks moving to and becoming part of suburbia crashed. Now, with a 70% rate of black children born out of wedlock, only the ones that break free from the shackles of the left-wing, liberal plantation of dependence have a shot of making it today. Thanx for nothing, welfare state America.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Yes, before the late 60's, non-urban america was a wonderland for black families. Suburbs welcomed black families with open arms, and job opportunities were wide open for blacks! Black schools weren't underfunded at all, and blacks could ride a bus to any suburban school they chose to receive an equal education!

      December 20, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
      • Sarcist

        Whine Whine Whine! All you do is sit around and whine about how bad everything has been for black people! I am white and MY life has not been all that great so I don't want to hear it!

        December 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barnacle Bill

      Drugs were brought in by freewheeling free marketers looking to make a buck. They also targeted the black community because they also had an agenda to bring them down. Those free market capitalists didn't want black people moving into their all white neighborhoods, so they proceeded to wage class and race warfare on those least able to fight it. Anyone can blame one side for all of the ills of society. My analysis is more valid than yours, because I didn't blindly try to categorize everyone on the right side as being greedy, hypocritical free marketeers.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
      • Amy

        Because the ones least able to fight it means they don't know the word "no."

        December 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoBoy

      Amen! And all those right wing, Christian Conservative job creators with there new tax cuts, government subsidies and tax breaks started hiring all of us poor black folks, promoting us to jobs with pay equal to theres, allowed us to buy homes in the surburbs next to them and worship in their big churches. Then they took their country back and we all lived happily ever after!

      December 20, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Samskwirl

    Suburbs suck – citys suck too. That is all

    December 20, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Truth Detector

      That's not all. You suck. There, now we're done.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Barnacle Bill

      You suck. That is all.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
      • Alexo

        I prefer not to use words like "Suck" in this forum..

        December 20, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  28. spike

    Bass ackward.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  29. Max in NY

    CNN-you messed up the scroll bar for the age lapse of the house- scrolling to 1955 makes it look newer ya dopes.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
    • vintage274

      Reading skills needed. The caption clearly states that the original house was featured on a "black and white postcard." No matter how you scroll, the black and white house is the original.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • d

      CNN is dolts.

      December 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoBoy

      Pay attention and stop embarrassing yourself.

      December 20, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Max, I had no problem with viewing and understanding the photos.

      December 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |