Carved from eight square miles of Bucks County farmland rtheast of Philadelphia, Levittown, Pennsylvania, is a symbol of postwar suburbia and the fulfillment of the American dream. Begun in 1952, after the completion of an identically named community on Long Island, the second Levittown soon eclipsed its New York counterpart in scale and ambition, yet it continues to live in the shadow of its better-kwn sister and has received limited scholarly attention. Second Suburb uncovers the unique story of Levittown, Pennsylvania, and its significance to American social, architectural, environmental, and political history. The volume offers a fascinating profile of this planned community in two parts. The first examines Levittown from the inside, including oral histories of residents recalling how Levittown shaped their lives. One such reminiscence is by Daisy Myers, whose family were the first African Americans to move to the community, only to become the targets of a race riot that would receive international publicity. The book also includes selections from the syndicated comic strip Zippy the Pinhead, in which Bill Griffith reflects on the angst-ridden trials of growing up in a Levittown, and an extensive photo essay of neighborhood homes, schools, churches, parks, and swimming pools, collected by Dianne Harris. The second part of the book views Levittown from the outside. Contributors consider the community's place in planning and architectural history and the Levitts' strategies for the mass production of housing. Other chapters address the class stratification of neighborhood sections through price structuring; individual attempts to personalize a home's form and space as a representation of class and identity; the builders' focus on the kitchen as the centerpiece of the home and its greatest selling point; the community's environmental and ecological legacy; racist and exclusionary sales policies; resident activism during the gas riots of 1979; and 'America's lost Eden'. Bringing together some of the top scholars in architectural history, American studies, and landscape studies, Second Suburb explores the surprisingly rich interplay of design, techlogy, and social response that marks the emergence and maturation of an exceptionally potent rendition of the American Dream.
Dianne Harris is professor of landscape architecture, architecture, art history, and history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she is also director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. Harris is the author of numerous publications including The Nature of Authority: Villa Culture, Landscape, and Representation in Eighteenth-Century Lombardy, winner of the Society of Architectural Historians Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Book Award, and coeditor of Sites Unseen: Landscape and Vision.