Lecture 4 – Jan30 Two prototypes of suburbs (one U.S., one from Canada)
- Name came from 2 brothers Bill & Alfred Levitt; 1946 Levittown, NY (Long Island)
vs. Levittown New Jersey and Pennsylvania
- Levitt brothers had been developers before the WWII back in the 1930s and they had a
o In the 1930s, they were building upper-middle class suburbs. When they were
building them, they built it in the traditional way
i.e. big land divided into parcels and selling them off one by one to small
scale house builders.
o What happened in the WWII changed them. They received a government
contract to build over 2300 mass produced homes (on temporary basis for war
effort workers) for the government in Virginia. They learned during this
experience how to cut construction industry through standardization.
o Then came the end of WWII along with the large demand of suburban housing.
The Levitt brothers came up with the idea to build houses like you build cars
o They invested in a big parcel of land in Long Island and bought a 4000 acres of
potato farms and decided to put up the first mass produced suburb and named it
Levittown. When this became more popular they decided to replicate this in other
geographic areas (i.e. NJ and Pennsylvania)
- Standardization: they did a few things differently
o They broke down the process of construction bit by bit. This was different
because houses used to be built one by one. This process was efficient, saved
money, and did not require a lot of skills
For example, they built the foundation of the houses all at the same time,
paint the houses all the same time, and planted trees at the same time.
The process: One crew would drive up to a property, dig a hole for the
tree. Another crew would then come drop off the tree. The third crew
was there to plant the tree.
o They also had their own finance companies: People could be given mortgages
without having to wait at the bank.
o They had their own timber company and lumber yards: They did not have to
depend upon companies that milled lumber.
o They even had a company that produced nails
o The two above allowed the Levitt brothers to have specific requirements. It
allowed them to produce more quickly and cheap (cost for each home was under
$1000 USD). The houses cost $59/month (mortgage).
- These were not large houses – only 800 Sq Feet with 4 rooms but the owners could
expand the house (more stories) if they wished to.
- Reaction to Levittown:
o Architects hated the uniformity.
o Media praised it for being able to produce housing for the average American - There is a clause connected to Levittown that kept out Jews, Blacks, and Latinos?? ****
- It was so popular that people would line up for days to purchase a Levittown home
Don Mills – for upper-middle class
- In 1940, E.P. Taylor began to purchase farm land in the east part of Toronto (which was,
back then, very isolated). At the time, E.P. Taylor was one of the most successful
businessmen and he made his money mainly from beer brewing.
- By the late 1940s, he decided to purchase lands over 2000 acres but was very secretive
about what he was going to do with the land but ended up building a whole new
- Macklin Hancock: he is a landscape architect, did a masters degree in Harvard. At one
point, he was approached by Taylor and asked him to be a part of his team. At that time,
he was about to do his master’s thesis. He asked his professor if he could use his design
of Don Mills as his thesis but his professor said no. So, Hancock dropped out the
program and built Don Mills.
- Unlike Levittown, Don Mills it was not going to be aimed for lower-middle class; it was
for the upwardly mobile middle class. Taylor and Hancock decided to build Don Mills as
a distinct neighbourhood. There are 5 key elements of it:
1. Notion of the Neighbourhood: they cut the property (the 2000 acres of land) in 4 equal
parts and the parts were dissected by the intersection of two roads (Lawrence Ave., and
a. Each of the 4 quadrants was constituted as a separate neighbourhood that was to
have equal population. An elementary school, church and local store were also in
each of the quadrant.
b. At the intersection of the 2 roads (where the quadrants mee