May 22, 2012


click on photos to enlarge

Question: What is your opinion of the major expansion of Levittown houses? Photos by Marilyn Monsrud Frese '63.

Kathy Stahlman Zinn '63

Toto, I don't think we're in Levittown anymore! Wow - these photos take my breath away, and make my father's additions to 99 Butternut Lane look paltry in comparison. I don't think I like them, but I think it was inevitable. Fashions and desires change.

I wonder, also, if Levittown's early reputation as a place where the houses "are all made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same" led to folk's desires to make their houses look more distinctive. Still, every time I see a classic Cape Cod, usually somewhere other than Levittown, I get a smile on my face. My son lived in a house in Charlottesville, VA which had the very same floor plan as my old home. I told him I knew where everything was in his house the moment I got in the door!

Toni Crescenzo Gelfer '68

These photos of expanded Levitt homes produce a dichotomy in my mind. My home life, since marriage, has been chock full of remodels and restorations. I appreciate all the hard work, time, thought and money that was expended to accomplish the finished project and the accompanying pride and self-satisfaction in seeing that huge undertaking to fruition.

On the other hand, I mourn for the charm and innocence of those beautiful, basic capes and ranches. Touring some streets of Levittown now, passing one behemoth after another, smothering those basic lots, crowding out the foliage makes me feel I'm in a giant Pulte neighborhood. There is a fine line between love and hate and sometimes crossing a Levittown street can put you over that line.

Wendy Max Dunford '68

Levittown? Surely not! Oh, but it is. These homes that began their lives as humble Cape Cod and ranch models, now towering above the sidewalks and streets of our beloved home town.

While some are done tastefully, and others not so much so, they still tug at our heart strings as we struggle to hang onto precious memories of the homes in which we grew up. Homes where we fought with our siblings. Homes where doorways were marked in pencil as a testament to how much we’d grown in a single year.

Those little homes where families struggled to get ready for work and school, sharing the single hall bathroom. We marked so many milestones in those small, sturdily built houses -- birthdays, proms, weddings -- often shared by multiple generations. Small? Yes, but they were full of love and warmth and happiness of a simpler time.

I’m sure the newly remodeled homes are nice and accommodate their families well. Still, one can’t help but sigh inwardly at what our beloved home town once was.

Arnie Galeota '61

What sticks in my mind about early Levittown is the sameness of each piece of property. Not only of the house, but of the entire property layout. The back yards had the same apple and peach trees, but not much more in foliage. The trees lining the streets were young and still small by today's standards.

There was the feeling of being content with what we had, not the feeling of trying to one up your neighbors by changing the appearance of your house. It just didn't seem that important then. I'm not sure when all the reconstruction of the homes and the community went into full gear, but it wasn't changing that much while I was still in high school. A few years later, first a garage, then a dormer, then new windows and then the more drastic changes began steamrolling until how it looks today. No two houses look alike!


Part two, with more mansion photos, will be posted in a few days.


Marilyn Monsrud Frese DAHS '63 said...

Hi All! I must tell you that although these homes are gigantic... most in Levittown are not. You can still see those little ranches and capes inside of modest expansions. But, knowing some people who DO own these big houses... (the one Frank posted on the homepage of this blog is my neighbors across the street) - their desire to own a larger home had them looking at other towns... towns with larger plots of land. However, their desire to STAY IN LEVITTOWN... for a multitude of reasons... led them instead to expand their little capes and ranches rather than moving out of town. Don and I also looked at other homes about 10 years ago when he began thinking of retirement... but the feeling we have for Levittown, along with a block of wonderful neighbors... kept us here. We ended up pushing the back of the house out... along with extending the garage in the back (had to make more room for his 3 motorcycles!). We also made the extended rooms with cathedral ceilings. The high ceiliings made the room so bright and open... and we have 9' tall glass windows & doors across the back of the room... brings the outside in sort of. We STILL have only 1 bathroom... just the 2 of us here now.... if we managed with 1 BR while the kids grew up here, we could surely manage with 1 now. From the front of our house, you cannot see the expansion at all! People walk in and are suprised to see so much room we have! We still have our fireplace between the kitchen and LR... as most of the ranches do. I don't know of any homes that still have the black tile floors and the radiant heat in them- or their oil tanks still buried in the front lawns. That is long gone. Those warm floors on a cold morning were great though... remember that? No cold feet... could go barefoot all year in the house! But the small Levitt homes still RULE the streets of Levittown.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I have also been amazed at some of the house transformations in Levittown. We were getting used to some of the renovations with completed second floors and an attic above, but a few years ago we were driving on Sugar Maple when we spotted something very unique: a three story Levitt house with an attic above that! 'The times, they are a-changin'!

Howard Whidden, '62

Larry Bory said...

My parents added a dining room/family room on side of the house because my father hated eating in the kitchen. It had a bay window in front, but it was a very modest addition to the house. These Levitt Mc Mansions strike me as gross ( large but very unattractive designs).