Levittown: Hard to find one of those original boxes now
LEVITTOWN — Sixty years ago this month, the first families moved into this suburban outpost, and soon there were 17,447 houses that as the song “Little Boxes” noted derisively, were “all made out of ticky-tacky, and they all looked just the same.”
The Cape Cods that first became available in 1947 — with four rooms, one bathroom and among other modern amenities a Hotpoint electric range in every kitchen — were offered for $6,990, and 800-square-foot ranch homes went for $7,990.
These days, the little boxes have been individually renovated, remodeled and enlarged beyond recognition. A decade ago, there were perhaps 200 unaltered Levitts left, but only a handful remain today. Even the Smithsonian Institution has been unable to obtain one to display.
On a walk down any of the fabled “thousand lanes” making up this famous suburb, there are ornate white-columned entranceways on boxy warehouse-looking homes next to gaudy miniature mansions with boxy extensions jutting out in all shapes and sizes.
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Jonathan Dresner - 10/18/2007
It's true that the song was written for the Oakland hills -- I'm not a friend of Malvina Reynolds, but I've seen a documentary or two -- but the song resonated with people precisely because of the Levittown-style mass-produced housing became widespread.
William Mandel - 10/18/2007
The song was written by my friend Malvina Reynolds of Berkeley, California. She was struck by the little box residences built in San Francisco after World War Two, not by Levittown, N.Y. It is interesting that the word "ticky-tacky" she invented to describe what they were made of has gained the status of inclusion in dictionaries.