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Levittown, Norfolk Virginia

“Rose, do you know what this thing is?”

That’s what my neighbor asked me Friday night, as we were standing in the front yard, enjoying the pleasant evening.

In the back of his truck, he showed me a 2×6 with a metal ring recessed into a matching groove. I closely examined the board and the ring and the groove. Then I had to admit, I didn’t have a clue.

“It came out of that house that they’re remodeling down the street,” he said. “It’s a roofing joist. I didn’t know what it was either, and I asked my nephew and he said it was a fastener. It had a square bolt that went through it, and that’s what held two pieces of wood together.”

“Like a nailing plate,” I said.

“Yeah, like a nailing plate.”

Back at home, we looked it up on the computer (using the patent number) and found it was a Teco Timber Ring.

Looking at this curiosity, I got to thinking it might help me solve another riddle. This Teco Ring came from “Bromley” (an adjacent neighborhood).

I’ve always wondered, why does Bromely have so many “Levittown houses”? We’ve got more than 75 “Jubilee” models, and they are identical to the houses built in Levittown (NY and PA).

Was there a connection between Bromley and Levitt’s assembly-line-method-of-house-building? Or did someone in Norfolk just “borrow” the Jubilee floorplan and build it en masse?

We know that William Levitt (creator and builder of Levittown) had a presence in Norfolk. In the early 1940s, he developed a tract of 750 homes in Norfolk known as “Oakdale Farms” (just off Little Creek Road).

According to Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010), “Before Oakdale Farms, [the Levitts] undertook a detailed study of prefabrication techniques and erected several test houses. They saw the exigencies of war as ideal circumstances for adopting the practice for the construction mainstream” (p. 136).

On the following page, the Levitts pointed at Oakdale Farms as their “watershed that was crucial to their large-scale projects of the post-war years.”

William Levitt is quoted as saying that Norfolk “infected us with the fever of mass building…We saw house-building…with a tract of land as a factory, turning out low-cost houses as its product.”

Are our Norfolk “Jubilees” in Bromley a Levittown product?

The discovery of this Teco Timber Coupler adds some intrigue. The house where it came from is not the “Jubilee,” but it’s smack-dab in a neighborhood full of these Levittown-lookalikes.

Take a look and the pictures, and if anyone can shed any light on this new mystery, let me know!

Read more about the Teco Timber Ring here.

To read an excellent article on Levittown, click here.

A final thought: One of the sweetest parts about being the local “expert” is having friends who pull cool stuff out of trash piles and haul it home and show it to you.  ;)

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This Teco Timber Ring was found in a house in Bromley (section of Norfolk).

This Teco Timber Ring was found in a house in Bromley (section of Norfolk).

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It came out of a 1950s house thats been torn down to the studs and is being rebuilt. Curious thing is, its in a neighborhood full of Jubilee Levittown houses. Is there a connection?

It came out of a 1950s house that's been torn down to the studs and is being rebuilt. Curious thing is, it's in a neighborhood full of "Jubilee" Levittown houses. Is there a connection?

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This iconic image from Life Magazine shows the Levittown NY neighborhood in the late 1950s.

This iconic image from Life Magazine shows the Levittown NY neighborhood in the late 1950s. Now take a good look at the houses in the background. Notice the long thin windows on the 2nd floor? This was the "Jubilee" model found in Levittown NY and PA.

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Heres a picture of a Levittown Jubilee in New York.

Here's a picture of a Levittown Jubilee in New York. See photo credit directly below.

The photo above came from a blogger who wrote a terrific piece on Levittown. You can enjoy more of his wonderful images and photos by clicking here.

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And heres one of our Jubilees in Norfolks Bromely neighborhood.

And here's one of our "Jubilees" in Norfolk's Bromley neighborhood. Notice, it even has the same attic vents (in the peak of the gable) as the NY Jubilee.

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Ive not counted yet, but Id guess we have more than 75 of these models.

I've not counted yet, but I'd guess we have more than 75 of these models.

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This Jubilee in Levittown, NY is for sale. Its on Vermillion Way.

This Jubilee in Levittown, NY (Vermillion Way) is for sale. I'm posting it here because it shows the back side of these houses. The house in the foreground has had some modifications. The white house next door is more original.

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Just like its Levittown twin, the house in Norfolk has a bathroom dormer (on the rear) with an off-center window.

Just like its Levittown twin, the house in Norfolk has a bathroom dormer (on the rear) that comes off the peak with an off-center window.

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werid angle

Another curious feature is the different angle on that garage roof. It's a different pitch than the primary roof. This house is in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

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The mismatched roof pitch on the garage/carport is also a match.

Our Jubilees in Norfolk also have this feature (unusually pitched garage roof).

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his

This Norfolk Jubilee has its original windows.

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As does this one in Levittown, PA.

As does this one in Levittown, PA. And they're the same style of window that's present in the Norfolk homes.

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Was Bill Levitt involved in creating our own mini-Levittown here in Norfolk?

I’d sure love to know.

One things for sure - the houses are a perfect match - down to the windows, vents, and other details.

You can read a fun little article about The Jubilee here.

More information on Levittown can be found here.

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  1. Shari D.
    March 30th, 2014 at 11:54 | #1

    Rose ~ Your link to more info about the Levittown homes and development is one of my favorite links in all the info I have uncovered online about not only Levittown, which has always fascinated me in terms of post-war housing production (another of several interests home-related) but post-war living in general.

    And no matter how many times I have read through it, that little tiny bit addressing Oakdale Farms, with the one photo of the house located there, has never “clicked” as something I should have pointed out as something of potential interest to you.

    Duh on me!

    But one thing I just noticed when looking again for the bajillion-and-third time, is the photo of the house they show, and the ones you show, are quite different homes.

    The photo in the article is definitely not a “Jubilee” home - it’s a very simple, basic Cape Cod square little house with a covered stoop out front. How many different styles did they build in those 750 homes in Oakdale Farms?

    Another thing I have always found interesting is that in most, if not all, the Levittown Houses, they saw fit to provide not only a stove and fridge in that itty-bitty kitchen, but also a Bendiix front-loading model washing machine! While a dryer was not provided, these front-loaders could spin-dry (damp) the laundry much better than any top loading machine could, just like today.

    The thing I have always liked about the Bendix Duomatic washer (not the Levittown home model offered here) is that it’s not just a washer, but also a genuine clothes dryer as well!

    It provided the gamut of cycles - you put your clothes in dry and dirty, and pulled them out dry and clean! No clotheslines and associated limitations of weather and frigid winter seasonal issues to deal with. Now, why did this concept of laundry care fail in the long run?

    The 97 ads I find on ebay for Bendix washers seem to run from 1937 to 1958, and there’s only one I see that shows the model Mr. Levitt chose is of course the most basic of the three models offered, and it’s a 1948 ad.

    If you go to ebay and type in Bendix washer advertising, you should come up with about 100 ads to look at. I also noticed an association with Philco at some point (didn’t note the year) so maybe it was just absorbed into their corporate offerings as a Philco model.

    And maybe there was still the desire to take the wet clothes out of the machine, haul them outside, hang them all up one at a time onto clothes lines, and dry them in the sunshine, take them all back down, again one piece at a time, haul them all back inside the house, inspect them (again) for errant “decoration” by the local bird flocks, sprinkle-dampen the pieces that would require ironing tomorrow, rolling them up and putting them in the ironing basket to wait for “Ironing Day!” Yes?

    Certainly taking them back out of the same machine in which they went in dirty, all dry and clean had some drawbacks, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it could be! LOL!

    It’s almost as good as the wonder-machine that June Lockhart had in “Lost In Space” that every housewife in America lusted after ~ it not only washed and dryed the clothes, but ironed and folded them as well!

    Not too far down the line, they even started adding built-in TVs in the stairway wall of the living room! I’m sure this was an additional “option” given the cost of the first TVs of the day, but I have seen several photos of homes that have them.

    The first ones were very small round screens, and they had fold-away doors over them, since TV didn’t start out to be an all-day-every-day proposition. But their proximity to New York City made reception less of a problem, since most of the major start-up networks had stations there.

    As the technology improved, the TVs got bigger, and as the cost also came down, it seems that folks would have seen the financial sense of NOT including the cost of something they could either save up and pay cash for or buy on short-term “time payments” rather than paying for a TV over the entire life of the mortgage.

    Of all the good ideas that Levitt had, one of the worst was keeping his Levittowns “restricted” as to the race of his buyers. Bill Levitt himself admitted to not wanting to be some kind of “social liberator” in that fashion, but I think that was just a copout.

    There were numerous theories put down as to the source of this “red lining” including putting the blame all the way back to the banks who financed the mortgages refusing to even write the paperwork for such home loans, but after WWII, when so many African American male AND female soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen fought and earned the right to the GI Bill benefits, it must have been an awful slap in the face from the country for which they fought to deny them access to those benefits.

    I know about the racial issues of the post-war generations, having been raised in the South (with segregated water fountains, rest rooms, bus station seating, lunch counters and so on) by a northern mother and grandparents on one side, and a Southern father and stepfather and associated relatives on the other, so I saw all sides of it, but surely there were at least a few expectations of some fairer forms of treatment than what had existed before the war.

    It took a while before this was remedied, at least on paper.

  2. Shari D.
    March 30th, 2014 at 12:39 | #2

    This particular link ~
    http://tigger.uic.edu/~pbhales/Levittown/Decorating.html ~
    shows the Life Magazine decorating contest that was held to showcase the decorative possibilities that women chose to render their “cookie-cutter” homes more individualized.

    By this time, the available designs had been improved upon, at a higher price point of course, and at this price, included the “contractor grade” (read that “almost invisible screen”) Admiral TV built in to the stair wall.

    The second and third prize winners in the Life Magazine contest show the original TV offered (second prize home) and a much larger model that had been placed in the same location, but requiring some larger cut-in space in that same wall (third place home).

    Oddly enough (?) the first prize living room didn’t show any evidence of a TV at all ~ perhaps the owners opted out of that feature?

    Gotta love the Levitt’s early fascination with the newest medium of broadcast television, and making sure almost every home is provided with the means to take advantage of it as soon as possible, while not taking up one more valuable inch of floor space!

    Rooftops bristling with enormous aerials were a sure sign of being tuned in to the future!

  3. Lisa
    July 16th, 2014 at 17:35 | #3

    You might already know this but there is possibly a sizable neighborhood of these houses in Richmond, VA. Check out the neighborhood southwest of the intersection of Libbie Avenue and Bethlehem Rd.
    https://www.google.com/maps/@37.595224,-77.499098,3a,32.9y,357.95h,84.73t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sbrmI_s5dcZh3Oz_wuRU4Uw!2e0

  4. Lois
    July 19th, 2016 at 08:03 | #4

    I just ran across a mention of the Norfolk Levitt homes in the book “White Trash” by Nancy Isenberg. She references Larrabee, “The Six Thousand Houses that Levitt Built”, 80.

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