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Archive for August, 2012

Happy Friday readers. We have reached the end of summer and Labor Day is only days away.  One of the things that Labor reminds me of is the American Dream…. you know, the neat house with a spacious lawn and white picket fence, 2.5 children and a freshly waxed family sedan gleaming in the driveway (or at least that’s what we are told the American Dream is).  To me, nothing reminds me of this more than Post World War II suburbs, and of course, the grand-daddy of them all is Levittown. That is today’s Fantasy, and while it is nowhere near as grand as our usual Fantasies  it is probably the most achievable, which was, after all, the point of Levittown!

NY Times photo of Levittown in 1947

Levittown (the original Long Island one, as there are OTHER Levittowns in Pennsylvania and in other places) is a Post WWII suburb developed for returning GI’s by Real Estate Lawyer Abraham Levitt. He had the idea to turn 60,000 acres of flat grassland on Long Island (which he bought when the original developer defaulted on a loan in the 30s) into a planned community of 2,000 rental houses. He made this announcement in the paper in 1947 and 2 DAYS later half of the houses were already spoken for.  Obviously the demand was great and Levitt and his sons (who helped their Dad with this venture) realized they needed to find a way to speed-up this process and make it cost-effective, so they removed basements from the plans for their houses, taking a cue from houses built on slabs in the south. This was actually against building code at the time, but with the baby-boom just beginning, nobody argued. In fact, the State of New York changed the building code to make concrete slab foundations allowable, because the need for housing was so great!

The Levitt’s used pre-cut lumber and produced their own nails at a nail factory they owned.  Using these precursors to prefabricated materials, the company was soon able to raise around 30 houses a day! The incredible thing is that even 30 houses a day was not enough to keep up with the demand for housing. Those original 2,000 houses were joined by another 4,000 houses, a school (and later additional schools) and post-office to accommodate the burgeoning town.

Levittown Houses. New York Times.

In 1949, the Levitts went from building rental houses to building Ranches for SALE, and they continued this until the last one sold in 1951. Levittown became such a part of American life that spawned American culture including Rock-star Billy Joel, who grew-up in a Levitt House (and was friends with Ash’s Mom when they were young… so ya’know, that’s AWESOME).

There is TONS of information on the different Levittowns out there, but one of the bests I think is the one-and-only Levittown Historical Society which many of my dates came from. I also came across this neat blog about life in Early Levittown.

Levittown Plans from Tessellar Blog

Real Estate Ad from Early Levittown Blog

Hope you enjoyed this look at American Developments and the 1950s American Dream! Enjoy those end of summer BBQ’s and have a great Labor Day!

-Etta

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Hey readers! As summer starts to wind down, Ash and I finally have some time to breathe, so I thought that I would share an amazing piece of architecture from Ash’s home State of New Hampshire with you. We have spent a lot of this summer traveling around our beloved New England and if you take a trip to New England any time soon, today’s Fantasy is one you shouldn’t miss!

Today’s Fantasy is Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. When it was built in 1913-1914, the manse was originally named Lucknow, but people have been calling it Castle in the Clouds since it opened to the public in 1959. Castle in the Clouds is a great example of the Arts and Crafts style, which is all about craftsmanship and a departure from the gaudily ornate Victorian architecture that dominated the last quarter of the 19th century (for more on this read the post on the Gamble House). Castle in the Clouds (Lucknow) was built for Thomas and Olive Plant, who were newly married. Thomas Plant made a fortune from the sale of his shoe manufacturing company to the United Shoe Manufacturing Company and retired to plan a country estate. To accomplish this, he bought over 6,000 acres spanning from the Ossipee Mountains to Lake Winnipesaukee, including the land known as the Ossipee Mountain Park .  One of the amazing things about Castle in the Clouds is that Mr. Plant not only had this house built, but he also built a pretty extensive network of roads around the estate that allowed the Plants and visitors to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounded them; including a series of waterfalls that feed into near-by Shannon Pond.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression hit the Plants, who tried to cut their losses by selling Castle in the Clouds.  Despite their financial duress, they still wanted to be good stewards of the estate they created, so when no buyer was found, they continued to live there until 1941 when Mr. Plant died. Only then was Castle in the Clouds sold.  Since then, it has undergone relatively few changes and today it is run by the Castle Preservation Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining this treasure! They have a website, with great pictures and a virtual tour in case you can’t make it to New Hampshire anytime soon (the photos below are from the Castle in the Clouds website).

I think this shot best illustrates why it is called Castle in the Clouds…. but now I’ll have Les Miserables stuck in my head ALL day…..

An up close view that really emphasizes Arts and Crafts principles.

Can you beat this view? Or the Art Glass panels, for that matter?

What a lovely living room… it almost seems cozy despite its size

One of the many natural features that Plant planned the property around.

Well, that’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed your quick trip to Ash’s home state.

Have a great weekend

-Etta

P.S.  A special thanks to my friend Peter who recently had a work project here and reminded me of how great Castle in the Clouds is. I think it made a great Fantasy.

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