Levitt, William Jaird

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Levitt, William Jaird

William Jaird Levitt (lĕv´ət), 1907–94, American builder, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. After studying at New York Univ., he (and his brother) joined his father's construction company; it became (1929) Levitt & Sons, Inc., and he served as president. After World War II, Levitt recognized that returning veterans would be starting new families and needing affordable housing. Keeping costs down with assembly-line construction techniques, he built (1947–51) the first Levittown in Nassau co., Long Island, following its resounding success with similar projects in Bucks co., Pa. (1951–55), New Jersey (1958), and several other states. They, in turn, spawned similar developments by builders in many other American suburbs, thus changing the country's landscape. Often criticized for the boring sameness of his houses, Levitt was also assailed for racially descriminatory practices. In 1968 he sold his company to International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT). One of America's richest men by the late 1960s, he failed in several later projects, and by the time he retired in the late 1980s he had lost the bulk of his fortune.

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