It's been observed that suburbanite's sense of identity is inextricably connected to the public school district in which they reside. There's some truth to this, of course.
My own sense of community, however, is geographically wider and more vaguely defined by virtue of the fact that, since I left the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, I've resided in the Levittown School District for 24 years, the Hicksville School District for 15 years, and the Island Trees School District for five years. I'm as much a Hicksvilleite as a Levittowner and am active in civic organizations in both communities (as well as in Wantagh).
The insularity of those who've lived in only one district oftentimes makes them overlook things on the other side of town, the next school district over. Why, somebody recently inquired, does Levittown have two "bird sections"- one in the northwest corner of Levittown and the other behind Nassau Mall?
The answer to that question is to be had on the walk down Oriole Lane which ends, unobtrusively, by the former site of the Levittown Fireside Deli on Hempstead Turnpike. The line-of-sight along the straighter part of the road allows the eye to gaze down the row of Cape Cods. They're Levittown Cape Cods but they are not Levitt Cape Cods.
The higher foundations, basements, and chimneys placed on the side of the houses is the giveaway. They are, in fact, part of the 600-unit Miller Development built by real estate developer and philanthropist Jerome Miller who also developed Nassau Mall in 1971 on the old Steihler farm. And whilst Miller was building these homes in 1949 and Levitt & Sons were busy at work unvailing their latest innovation - the Levitt Ranch house - Omega Homes was erecting a 125-unit development south of Hempstead Turnpike and just east of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church on the old Robricht spread whose farmhouse is now the church rectory building.
1949 had been a significant year in the development of Levittown because Congress authorized the Housing and Rent Act that provided for FHA-backed loans of up to 90% the home value. It made home-building and sales astonishingly more profitable prompting developers like Levitt & Sons, Miller Homes, and Omega Homes to sell rather than rent and to extend the customer base beyond "veterans only" - although GI's continued to be the principal buyers and Levitt & Sons continued to give them preferential treatment. The success of these Levitt - inspired developers was contagious. The building boom that radiated out of the newly-created Levittown saw real estate developers like Jerry Spiegel, Walter Stackler, Leonard Frank, Anthony Villett, and Sam Kellner fill in the empty spaces on the map between the patches of pre-WWII suburban tracts that peppered Nassau County.
The building of the Roxbury Homes, Cape Cod-style houses with basements, along Roxbury Lane and John Street near the Omega development, marked the end of the large-scale developments in Levittown. By then it was the late 1960's and most of the empty land had been built-upon. Subsequent real estate developments consisted of "spot developments" - three or four houses on an irregular plot here or there - and the small garden apartment complexes that appeared after 1970.
As important as these residences are because they are home to thousands of Levittown citizens, the non-Levitt developments constitute less than 12% of all our homes. That leaves Levittown with the unmistakable stamp of Levitt & Sons. It also leaves us with a more narrowly-defined socioeconomic profile when juxtaposed with surrounding communities by virtue of limitations on housing stock diversity. And this constitutes Levittown's greatest challenge: how to translate a post-WWII solution to housing into the qualitatively dissimilar needs of the 21st Century. The answer might not endow us with a non-Levitt Levittown on our anniversary date of October 1, 2047, but it will certainly provide us with a new concept of Levittown because communities, like living species, must evolve to adapt to changing conditions to survive.
Want to learn more about the history of Levittown and the surrounding communities? Visit www.levittownhistoricalsociety.org