A home of one's own
by Cait Murphy, FORTUNE Magazine

(FORTUNE Magazine) - First came the trucks. Every 100 feet, they would dump precisely bundled packages of lumber, piping, and other building supplies, then pour a concrete slab foundation.

Then came the men. Working in teams of two or three in a precise, 26-step choreography, the framers, the painters, the installers, the electricians, and so on would do their assigned task - and move on to the next home, over and over. At the peak of production, the building teams could complete 36 homes a day. The result was Levittown, N.Y., America's first mass-produced suburb. Henry Ford, who died a few months before ground was broken, would have appreciated the simple genius of this reverse assembly line. In Levittown, it was the workers who moved, not the product.

From 1947 to 1951, the Levitt family built 17,500 houses in this, their first eponymous community (others would follow). A typical ranch cost $7,990. Simple to a fault, the homes were widely ridiculed for their cookie-cutter spareness. Architectural critic Lewis Mumford declared the community an "incipient slum." But the houses were better than living cheek by jowl with the in-laws in the Bronx, and the target market - white, not-quite-middle-class returning vets - loved 'em. On one August day in 1949, sales reps sold 650 houses in five hours.

Levittown pioneered building techniques that are now standard - and helped to bring the American dream of home ownership within reach of thousands of people of modest means. And no, it never became a slum. Top of page

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS
Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.
Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.