William LevittCo-Founder that Levitt & SonsFounded: 1929"Any cursed fool can construct homes. What counts is how countless you deserve to sell for how little."-William Levitt 


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Like countless brilliant gaianation.nets, william Levitt didn"t come up with the idea the made him rich. That stole it. Although it is true the Levitt perfected the assembly-line technique that allowed his employees to churn out houses at an tremendous rate, long-forgotten developer in California had actually been doing something similar for years. Levitt"s true genius was the he foresaw the unprecedented need for middle-class housing that followed world War II, and by using a panoply the assembly-line methods to real estate construction, positioned himself to do the most of the situation. His distinct vision of a planned neighborhood with well-built but affordable houses jump-started the suburbanization of America and dramatically adjusted the means homebuilders built and also homebuyers bought.

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Ironically, the guy who would come to be known together the "Pioneer that Suburbs" never intended to be a builder. His dream to be to be a advertisement aviator. But he drifted into the housing company after his father, Abraham, and brother, Alfred, designed and also built a residence on a lot wilhelm owned but had been unable come sell. Through a home on the lot, William easily made the sale. Realizing a good thing once he observed it, he automatically joined pressures with his father and brother to kind Levitt & boy in 1929.

With Abraham taking care of the landscaping and also community planning, Alfred designing the homes and William taking care of management, financial matters and sales, the company experienced middle success throughout the 1930s. By the finish of the decade, Levitt & boy had built 2,500 residences ranging in price from $9,100 come $18,500.


When human being War II erupted, William put his organization career on host to serve in the Pacific with one of the Navy"s Seabee combat building and construction units, where he earned a call for bending rules and even disobeying orders if that would aid him accomplish his objectives.Shortly after ~ William returned to the family organization in 1945, the company entered its best era the success. Countless newly liberated GIs, countless with wives and also children, were passionate to purchase homes. Unfortunately, wartime shortages had actually crippled the real estate industry, and also there simply weren"t enough residences to meet the demand. Sensing a significant opportunity, the Levitts purchase 1,000 acre of land on long Island, 25 miles eastern of Manhattan, and embarked top top a bold endeavor to develop 17,000 homes. It was fairly an positive goal in ~ a time when most developers averaged four to five dwellings a year. However the Levitts had actually a plan.

They broke down the construction procedure into 27 separate tasks and also assigned each task to a group of workers who would walk from home to residence repeating their specific task in ~ each building site. Van would provide parts and also materials come homesites placed at 60-foot intervals. Then the carpenters, tilers, painters and also roofers arrived every in turn. There was also one employee that did nothing however bolt washing equipments to the floors. When the procedure was in high gear, houses were perfect at the rate of as countless as 36 every day. (Even at the pace, Levitt was hard-pressed to store up v demand. Throughout the very first weekend that building, Levitt sold an ext than 300 houses.)


To save down timber costs, the Levitts bought their very own forests and built a sawmill in Oregon. They purchased appliances straight from the manufacturer, cutting out the distributor"s markup. They also made their own nails. The Levitts" methods kept prices so low the in the first couple of years, your cookie-cutter two-bedroom houses-which featured fireplaces, radiant-heated floors, up-to-date kitchen equipment, wash rooms and also televisions-could be offered for just $7,900.a price that still enabled the Levitts a profit of around $1,000.

In its very first year, William"s dream community, i beg your pardon he quite arrogantly dubbed "Levittown," make the firm a profit of about $5 million. In 1949 alone, the Levitts constructed 4,600 houses and sold them for a complete of an ext than $42 million. Plainly their mass-production technique was the key to the company"s future. It additionally dramatically changed the housing industry. After see the Levitts" success, builders throughout the nation began transforming cornfields right into bedroom communities, mimicking the Levitts" cost- and also time-cutting methods. The suburbanization that American was on.

From the so late 1940s come the late 1960s, the Levitts skilled phenomenal success, building additional Levittowns in Pennsylvania, brand-new Jersey, brand-new York and also Florida. Wilhelm assumed much more control when Alfred left the company in the mid-1950s, and also then finish control once Abraham died in 1962. Through the so late 1960s, wilhelm had become one the the richest guys in America, with a fortune approximated in overfill of $100 million. He resided in a lavish 30-room mansion on his "La Coline" heritage in Mill Neck, new York, and spent much of his time on his 237-foot yacht, La Belle Simone, named after his third wife. But after nearly four years of unprecedented success, Levitt"s luck was around to change.

In 1968, after his agency had built much more than 140,000 homes approximately the world, Levitt sold Levitt & sons to international Telephone and also Telegraph (ITT) because that $92 million in stock, most of i beg your pardon went directly into his pocket. The deal barred him from the residential construction business for 10 years, so using his ITT stock together collateral, Levitt embarked on a collection of overseas structure projects in Iran, Venezuela, France and Nigeria. However the success he"d accomplished in the United says eluded him. Also worse, in just 4 years, the value of his ITT share dropped 90 percent, leaving him countless dollars in debt.

In the late 1970s, Levitt made several abortive attempts at a comeback, consisting of two advances in Florida, both of i beg your pardon failed, forcing him come refund hundreds of prospective homebuyers" deposits because the homes were never ever built. The last blow came in 1981, when new York State Attorney general Robert Abrams charged the Levitt had illegally siphoned money indigenous the Levitt Foundation, a charitable company started by his household years earlier. Levitt was ultimately forced to repay $5 million come the foundation.


By 1982, with lot of his fortune gone, Levitt had worked out into a restless retirement. He died at north Shore college in Manhasset, brand-new York, January 8, 1994. Regardless of his financial troubles in his later on years, wilhelm Levitt, together with his father and brother, transformed the housing industry. The mass-market building methods they helped to make industry standards allowed millions of middle- and also working-class americans to own their own homes, and reshaped the face of the nation. 

Afordable however Not EqualWilliam Levitt"s dream of affordable, well-built housing was no for everyone.at the very least not initially. As late together the 1950s, he refuse to sell houses to African-Americans. The once available to construct a separate advancement for blacks, however he would certainly not integrate white developments, believing that integration would cause him to shed 90 to 95 percent the his white customers. Levitt protected his policy by saying, "We can solve a housing trouble or we can shot to solve a racial problem. Yet we can"t perform both." Levitt would eventually relent, that course, however decades later, countless of the neighborhoods he developed remain primarily white.

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A family members AffairAlthough that is william Levitt that is generally credited with the success the Levittown and the developments that made the possible, he might not have achieved either there is no his brother and also father. In fact, Alfred and also Abraham Levitt first experimented with plenty of of the standardization and also cost-reduction techniques that were later on used in ~ Levittown while structure 1,600 dwellings for military and also civilian personnel stationed in ~ the Norfolk Naval basic in Virginia in 1942.