Wishing all our Moslem friends a blessed Ramadan. -PM
The society is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to preserving the Legacy of Levittown. The museum is closed during all school holidays/breaks.
Wishing all our Moslem friends a blessed Ramadan. -PM
Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt on October 24, 1908 standing in the Grandstand of the Vanderbilt Cup Race. Today this location is the recently-developed lot near the corner of Skimmer Lane and Orchid Road. Amongst her fellow spectators were Henry Ford, Harry Guggenheim, and J.P. Morgan.
-The woman on the left (leaning against the column) is Eleonor Sears, an “expert horsewoman, national tennis champion, and formidable competitor in almost every other sport on land and sea.”
Seeking to interview Levittowners.
Elodie Bitsine is a French Ph.D. student at UMD's School of Planning, Architecture, & Preservation seeking to study a comparison between the experiences of residents in Levitt & Sons developments in America and residents of Levitt & Sons developments in France. It is for a documentary and will involve recorded interviews. If interested contact [email protected]
Today we would like to wish all our Christian friends a most solemn and contemplative Good Friday and a most joyous Easter.
This day commemorates the death of a peaceful, just, kind, and powerless man at the hands of brutal, unjust, cruel, and powerful men. And yet, from an entirely secular and historical perspective, Jesus of Nazareth left behind a greater legacy than that mighty Empire and its minions. It has been noted that he did not write a single book, compose a single song, nor create a single work of art and yet more books have been written about him, more songs composed about him, and more artworks inspired by him than any other historical figure who walked the Earth. This is without precedence. -PM
WHY DON'T PEOPLE KNOW THEIR COMMUITY'S HISTORICAL FIGURES?
Why are so many people more intimately acquainted with movie stars and television personalities than with the historical figures who shaped and/or created their communities? Don't get me wrong. I am not knocking the aforesaid celebrities. Nor am I endeavoring to "put people on the spot". But it is important to know why so many people don't know the persons in their very neighborhood who made significant historical contributions.
Over the years, I have met people from Hicksville who have never heard of Valentine Hicks. He was a Quaker businessman, landowner, and abolitionist who oversaw the construction of the LIRR across what came to be Nassau County, the founder of Hicksville, and a man who hid escaped slaves in his home as a stop on the Underground Rail Road. Over the years, I have met people from Jericho who have never heard of Hicks' kinsman, Elias Hicks. Elias was well-known throughout America in the 1810's and 20's as a staunch religious and civic reformer whose lobbying was played an important role in New York State outlawing slavery in 1827. Over the years, I have met people from Garden City who were unfamiliar with Alexander Stewart even though this merchant prince who founded the modern department store as we know it also founded Garden City and the Central Branch of the LIRR. And, over the years, I have met people from Levittown who knew astonishingly little about William Levitt and what little they did know was not historically accurate.
Why don't people know their community's historical figures? There are at least five reasons.
1. Modern society changes so rapidly that it's difficult to appreciate erstwhile events, personages, and situations even if they have taken place only fifty, seventy-five, or a hundred years ago. Life in 1421, for example, was exactly like life in 1121 - only later. On the other hand, consider how very different life in 2021 is from as recently as the mid-20th Century (let alone the 19th).
2. Modern society is more visually-oriented. People are more aware of movie stars or celebrities, or television personalities than historical figures because the former come to us, on a daily basis, through moving images and sound rather than via the written word. Oh, there are paintings of Elias Hicks and Valentine Hicks, a few still photographs of Stewart, and newsreels of Levitt. (Indeed, the last taped interview with him was done just a few months before he died in 1994). But these are not things that are generally found on the "mainstream media".
3. Cultural stereotypes about individuals distort the modern observer's conception of what historical figures were actually like. For example, the Puritan leader Cotton Mather, insofar as people in 2021 are even familiar with him at all, is - like all his fellow Puritans - seen as a narrow-minded religious extremist. At least that is the evaluation of our current secular society. But he, and the other Puritans, vigorously promoted literacy and established some of America's earliest public schools, universities, newspapers, and book publishers. Mather's own published writings covered a wide range of topics in addition to theology and he was a stanch advocate for inoculations against smallpox when, in 1721, an outbreak in Boston killed more than eight hundred citizens.
4. Contemporaries make the mistake of evaluating people in the past based upon present day understandings, values, beliefs, sensitivities, and circumstances. For instance, the evil of slavery is self-evident to people in 2021. It was not so evident to uneducated people in Virginia in 1721. Most of Virginia's population was illiterate in 1721, knew nothing beyond the confines of their own communities, and did not know anything other than a society in which slavery was the norm. What little they would have known about former societies came from listening to the Bible read on Sundays in church and in Biblical times, the practice of slavery was the norm. (Even educated Virginians, familiar with the ancient Geeks and Romans would likewise have been exposed to slave-holding cultures).
5. People tend to see past events as conflicts between polar opposites and that makes it difficult to see the complexities, motivations, and multiple perspectives of historical personages and thus understand them. Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, for example, were united in their desire to defeat the Axis Powers. But that was the only thing they really had in common. Each man subscribed to very different beliefs, ideas, and goals that were, in of themselves, in conflict.
Wishing a happy Passover to all our Jewish friends and a happy Palm Sunday to all our Christian friends. -PM
A FEW FAVORITE HISTORY QUOTES.
1. "The charm of history and its enigmatic lesson consist in the fact that, from age to age, nothing changes and yet everything is completely different". - Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
2. "History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are". -David C. McCullough (1933 - ).
3. "I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging the future but by the past" - Edward Gibbon (1737-1974).
4. "Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own time" - Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
5. "History is the science of what never happens twice" - Paul Valery (1871-1945)
6. "History is philosophy teaching by examples". - Thucydides (c.460 - 395 B.C.).
Happy St. Patrick's Day.
THE LEVITTOWN TECHNIQUE.
In the February 11, 1949 issue of "The Wall Street Journal", William Levitt described the Fordian approach as the only solution to America's severe post-War housing shortage. "The only way the public is gong to get as much value for its housing dollar as it gets from its automobile and television dollar is for its builders to adopt the production techniques of these industries"
Applying the techniques Ford used to mass-produce automobiles and bomber aircraft, Kaiser employed to mass-produce ships, and Grumman undertook to mass-produce fighter planes required some modification for Levitt & Sons 26-step homebuilding process. Here are nine approaches the Company executed:
1. Extensive use of subcontractors (about 50) with exclusivity contracts and negotiated fees to assure their undivided commitment to the Levitt Development and its timetables.
2. Tight schedule coordination of groups of workers directed by Levitt & Sons managers.
3. Extensive time/motion studies to ensure that each step was undertaken by the fewest numbers in the least amount of time.
4. Jettisoning inefficient and/or archaic methods in favor of newer methods that would require the least amount of time, least amount of materials, and least number of workers per task.
5. In-shop prefabrication: Components that went into Levitt homes cut, drilled, measured, and built off-site ahead of time for rapid installation.
6. Acquisition of building materials or Levitt-standard features at wholesale prices.
7. Greater control of supply trains including supply subdivisions (such as a lumber mill and a nail factory) established within the Company.
8. Investment in state-of-the-art construction machinery, especially those that were less labor-intensive.
9. Non-union labor with union wages and perks.
Video of second life's levittown museum
Video from the museum in second life.
SUPPORT OUR CORPORTE SPONSORS!
As with all nonprofit educational institutions, we rely upon the generous sponsorship of local businesses to run our programs and are everlastingly grateful for that generosity as we urge our members, guests, and the public to patronize them.
THOMAS F. DALTON FUNERAL HOMES
LONG ISLAND HEARING, INC.
VETERNS OF FOREIGN WARS POST 9529
LEVITTOWN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
SOUTH VILLAGE LANES
HICKSVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
LEVITTOWN COMMUNITY COUNCIL
ROBERT L. RYAN, JR. ESQ. ATTY. AT LAW
LEVITTOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY
We wish we could see you at the Museum! Sorry that due to restrictions, the Museum is closed at the present. However, here's a video of a presentation that I once presented also at a Historical Society meeting. Enjoy the clip, and hope we can see you soon! Bob Koenig, Vice president
On this new Port Washington Public Library show, guest speakers will spend time discussing the passion they each have for their unique collections. Whether i...
The Homes of Famous Americans. How many have you visited?
Here's my list: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Robert E. Lee, Theodore Roosevelt, Walt Whitman, Cornelius Vanderbilt, William K. Vanderbilt, Robert Todd Lincoln, Harry Guggenheim, Philip Schuyler, Robert Coe, Marshal Field III, and J. Peter Grace.
Breaking Birthday News: George Washington’s Mount Vernon will continue its annual tradition of opening to the public for free on Washington’s Birthday Observed (colloquially known as Presidents’ Day, Feb. 15) as well as George Washington’s actual birthday, Feb. 22, but advanced ticket reservations will be required this year.
Tickets will be available for both days on the Mount Vernon website starting Feb. 12 at 12 am. Mount Vernon members may reserve a limited amount of tickets starting Feb. 1 at 12 am. Tickets can be reserved at mountvernon.org/birthdaytickets
Visitation capacity will be limited on both days and there will be no tickets available in-person. Guests who reserve tickets in advance will be assigned an entry time and will only be let on the estate at the time on their ticket. All guests will have to follow Mount Vernon’s COVID-19 safety protocols, face coverings are required, and when possible guests should remain 6 ft. apart. Learn more at mountvernon.org/open
Visitors are invited to tour the grounds, gardens, and museum.There will be no mansion interior tours on either day due to COVID capacity restrictions, but guest services staff and our historical character interpreters will be positioned throughout the estate.
The Presidential wreath-laying ceremony will not be available to the public in person, but will be live-streamed on the Mount Vernon website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts on Feb. 15.
For guests who are unable to visit with us in person on Washington’s birthday, we invite you to join us for our virtual George Washington National Birthday Celebration online on Feb. 22 starting at 7 pm EST. To RSVP visit mountvernon.org/gwbirthday
Born on this day in 1732.
By the time Levittown celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1957, the world seemed to offer limitless possibilities. Sixteen years of economic depression and world war ended with the creation of the most expansive economy in American history and scores of millions of working class families pulled out of poverty and into the ranks of suburban homeownership. Levittown was the quintessential example of that process. There was also great anticipation about future possibilities. Here, in Lester Del Ray's 1957 book, "Rockets Through Space", illustrator James Heugh depicts a landing on the Moon. Few people in 1957 would have imagined that this feat was merely a dozen years in the future let alone that the spacecraft that would achieve this would come out of the Grumman facility next door.
Happy President's Day.
The Seal of the President of the United States
OUR FACEBOOK POLICY.
It is neither the habit nor the inclination of the Levittown Historical Society & Museum to censor posts or comments thereof as we believe people ought be possessed of the intellectual sophistication, emotional maturity, and moral integrity to be exposed to opinions of which they may or may not disagree. This is in contrast to the manner in which many other pages on Facebook are administered.
That having been said, there are reasonable limitations. We will not publish statements which are obviously deliberately misleading, which constitute slander or obscenity, or which can reasonably be construed as incitation to violence or illegal activities. We are not opposed to political opinions provided it is understood that that the Levittown Historical Society & Museum does not endorse any public policy or political faction/party or candidate for public office. (as legally circumscribes a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation) and that such-kind, when expressed, does not reflect the views of this organization or its Board of Directors or its President.
We ask only that people consider the objective or our organization: To promote literacy in the social sciences in general and, in particular, to preserve the legacy of William J. Levitt, the world-famous suburban development he and his family created for homecoming GI's (and its "sister cities" throughout the globe, and the rural Long Island communities of Jerusalem and Island Trees that preceded it.
William Levitt at 114.
Today is William Levitt's 114th birthday. For all his flaws, he nevertheless looms a Brobdingnagian amongst the Lilliputians when one contrasts all he had accomplished by the time of his 50th birthday with what all the naysayers, dirt-dishers, and character assassins have had to say about him - false, misleading, and dumbed-down things at that.
By the time William Levitt was fifty years-old, on February 11, 1957, he had completely revolutionized an entire industry. Techniques for building homes in 1940 differed little from techniques for building homes a century earlier. By 1950, however, Levitt & Sons were building homes the way Ford mass-produced automobiles, Kaiser manufacture ships, and Grumman rolled out fighter planes. An entirely industrialized modern process. There had doubtless been others who thought about this radical concept but it was Levitt who made it a reality.
The greatest aspect of the Levitt method was not technique but social impact. Just as Ford's Model T changed the lives of millions of working people by giving them a means - via modern, efficient, and affordable transportation - to take full advantage of other opportunities in life - so Levitt's houses and communities made it possible for working families to become homeowners - something that would have seemed a fantasy just a few years earlier.
Those obligated to sneer or dirt-dish merely reflect their own mediocrity. Not one of Levitt's critics ever did anything in their own lives to improve substantially the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people. -PM
Corner of Wantagh Avenue and Universe Drive looking east. The slight hill was eventually leveled and became the site of the original 8th Precinct building.
Memorial Educaton Center 150 Abbey Lane
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