Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Cape Cod: The Original Levittown House

A Cape Cod house is a modest symmetrical style that originated in colonial New England and became popular again in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Today, examples of the Cape Cod style can be seen across the United States. The name was coined by Yale President Timothy Dwight when he traveled through the region in the 1790s, says Architecture Week.

According to the Library of Congress, Cape Cod houses are sometimes also called "Cape-style houses." Originally, Cape Cod houses had just one story and two rooms, situated side-by-side. When the style enjoyed a resurgence in the 20th century, Cape Cod house plans became larger with more rooms. The homes generally have a simple rectangular frame, often clapboarded, with a ridge roof that can allow for attic living, and a large chimney in the center of the roof, directly above the front door.
Cape Cod houses have served their purpose as sturdy, economical dwellings for centuries, says It is easy to tell the difference, however, between colonial Cape Cod houses and modern ones. Telltale giveaways are any adornments, like shutters and dormers, which are protrusions from the roof.

Then in the late 1940's came the man who understood that American society had been changed by WWII and the men and women who had left home to fight. Out with the old and in with the new and part of the new was a new house which was not shared with parents. Abraham Levitt and his sons, one of whom was serving in the Navy, understood that 16 million men and women were returning and wanted homes. Thus began Levittown. The new town got variances for no basements, no foundations and other time and money saving variances from the old town of Hempstead and were built in an assembly line fashion. Levitt and Sons did things differently, but used quality product, few floor plans and had 1,000 of the 2,000 planned units sold or rented before construction began. Each house was planned to be a starter home which could be modified or added onto later. By the end of 1951 Levitt and Sons had built 17,447 homes in Levittown and the surrounding area. No other private builder had ever achieved such a feat.

Almost every house built there is still standing. Most have been enlarged, modified or changed in some other way. When first built many scoffed at the rubes that had rented (most were originally rented) or bought. Whole new communities of upwardly mobile ex-servicemen sprang up creating huge economic waves. Relatives or the dubious began to scoff less and look more at the neighborhoods of cute and well maintained "cottages", many moved to the new neighborhoods continuing to make the houses more valuable.

Today, as in all towns, there are nicer areas of town, but overall Levittown is a close knit community where neighbors know and take care of each other. Some additions were poorly thought out, but most were done very well for newer tastes and growing families. Currently, Levittown is once again going though changes utilizing new design techniques and new building technology. If for no other reason one should visit during the Christmas season where you will see displays that are unbelievable. Last year there were groups of carolers that roamed neighborhoods, especially to visit with the house bound, sick or just alone. The carolers knew which houses needed a little extra love. That's a neighborhood.