What Happens When A Former ‘Idyllic’ Suburb Fails To Evolve?

March 2, 2016

It’s a story that is, quite literally, fit for the silver screen; an idyllic 1950s suburban neighborhood faces the evolutionary process and must choose either to evolve, or vanish. While it is the plot to the 1998 movie Pleasantville, it has roots in the real world, as well.

Levittown, Pa. was an example of what a middle class ideal could be back in the 1950s. It is one of those places where anyone who grew up there has nothing but good things to say about it. The development included working class members as well as doctors, dentists, and lawyers, all living in houses that looked exactly alike.

But somewhere around the late 1960s and into the 1970s, something went wrong. As surrounding areas began to evolve and develop, luring away much of the professional class that resided in Levittown, the population of the development fell from a peak of 72,000 in the halcyon days of prior decades to about 53,000, where it currently sits today, according to CityLab.

Levittown, which infamously had riots when a black family tried to move into one of the houses back in 1957, is still predominantly (90.4 percent) white. Many feel if Levittown wants to begin growing again, it is going to have to do a better job of attracting minorities.

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