LEVITTOWN SHOP-A-RAMA
Bristol Pike and Levittown Parkway
Bucks County (Borough of Tullytown), Pennsylvania

With their first Levittown housing development (on Long Island) completed, the Levitt & Sons company set out on a second endeavor. It would be built on 5,750 acres, situated 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia's Center City.

Construction commenced on Levittown, Pennsylvania in February 1952, with the first residents moving in June 23 of the same year. The unincorporated Levittown community, which extended over four municipal jurisdictions in rural Bucks County, would encompass seventeen thousand three hundred and eleven homes by the time the development was completed, in 1957.

For their second planned city, Levitt & Sons included a suburban shopping center, which served as its central business district. This was a feature not included in the original Long Island Levittown, where another developer had built -and profited from- such a complex.

Levittown, Pennsylvania's SHOP-A-RAMA was designed by Lathrop Douglass and William J. Levitt. The cluster-type complex, open-air in format, was built on a 55 acre site, situated in the southwestern section of the Levittown development.

A grand opening celebration got underway on October 14, 1953. Three retail buildings, and twenty-six stores and services, were dedicated. Charter SHOP-A-RAMA tenants included J. Halperin & Company Realty, Sun Ray Drugs, Sears Catalog & Appliance, a Penn Fruit supermarket, W.T. Grant variety store and F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10.

One of the first structures built at the Pennsylvania site was Levittown Hall, a community center with two public auditoriums. The building, which stood at the north end of the shopping complex, had originally been used as a staging area for Levitt & Sons as they developed their planned city. In 1954, it was deeded to the Levittown Public Recreation Association and used as a community center and health club.

By this time, the SHOP-A-RAMA had been expanded westward. A fourth store block housed an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and 2-level (31,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. This store was officially dedicated on March 25, 1954. The Fox Theatres Towne Theatre, constructed on a pad northeast of the mall, showed its first feature in June 1954. The venue re-opened, as the Towne Twin, on November 27, 1974 and was shuttered in 1985.

A bona fide anchor store had been completed 2 years after the mall's debut. Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based Pomeroy's held a grand opening for their 3-level (241,000 square foot) Levittown location on May 5, 1955. This dedication was followed by the completion of the final two SHOP-A-RAMA store blocks. The complex now consisted of eight structures, which encompassed a total of 545,300 leasable square feet and housed over sixty stores and services.

In addition to the aforementioned tenants, there were now Bond Record & Radio, Singer Sewing Center, Alston's Hallmark, Cappy's Stride-Rite Shoes, Father & Son Shoes, Levittown Barber Shop, M & M Sporting Goods, Lerner Shops, Thom McAn Shoes, a US Post Office, State Liquor Store and Food Fair supermarket.

NESHAMINY MALL (1968) {6.8 miles west, in Bucks County} was the first major shopping center built in the SHOP-RAMA trade area. It was followed by OXFORD VALLEY MALL {3.9 miles northwest, also in Bucks County}in 1973.

All of the commercial competition was too much for the SHOP-A-RAMA to withstand. It soon fell into decline. Demographics of the community had also changed over the years. Baby boomers, who had been born and raised in Levittown, grew up and moved on, leaving many "empty nest" households behind.

Several of the original SHOP-A-RAMA tenants had either moved to newer shopping centers or gone out of business. Pomeroy's was shuttered January 25, 1987. The store re-opened, as Ports of the World (a discount branch of the Boscov's chain), on April 13, 1987. It was given a bona fide Boscov's nameplate August 23, 1993, but was permanently shuttered in March 2001. Woolworth's had closed for good in October 1993.

By this time, the SHOP-A-RAMA was practically deserted. A plan was assembled by the Tarrytown, New York-based DLC Management Corporation, owners of the "tired and outdated asset" since the year 2000. The southwestern store blocks became the first sections to be demolished, in early 2003.

Construction of a 1-level (97,900 square foot) Home Depot soon got underway. The remainder of the mall, save for the Levittown Hall structure, was knocked down, with an environmental clean up done at the site.

An effort was made to save the circa-1952 Levittown Hall from the wrecking ball. The (27,000 square foot) building was a prime example of post-war Late Moderne design and was still structurally sound. It was hoped that a Levittown Museum could be set up in the building. However, its existence served as a fly in the ointment to the re-developer of the SHOP-A-RAMA. Levittown Hall was unceremoniously demolished in 2004.

Home Depot, the first tenant in the new LEVITTOWN TOWN CENTER, opened in 2004. The completion of the remainder of the complex proceeded slowly. Redner's Warehouse Markets, a proposed anchor, pulled out of the project. A WalMart SuperCenter was eventually signed to take its place.

Thirty-eight tenants had been envisaged. Only five were in business by 2008; Taco Bell, Subway, Wachovia ["wah-koh-vee-ah"] Bank and Ross Dress For Less. The 1-level (197,000 square foot) WalMart SuperCenter opened July 15, 2009.

By 2012, the project had been completed. It now featured over twenty-five stores and services. These included Famous Footwear, Sally Beauty Supply, Deb Shops, PCX Clothing, Advance Auto Parts and Dollar Tree.

Sources:

The Levittown Times
The Bristol Daily Courier
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Mywebpages.comcast.net / "Levittown Relics" / Posts by Doris (Hill) Caucci, Lou Brooks, Ken Deitz, Mindy Feinberg, Tom Merlia and Laura Kapelle
"Shop Pomeroy's First" / Michael L. Lisicky
National Register of Historic Places Registration Form - October 1990
"Boscov's" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.boxoffice.com / "Tinseltoes"
http://www.dlcmgmt.com (DLC Management)