A grouping of three Unit Three shots begins with a view of today's Old Country Buffet. The building originally housed a bank.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

Here we see a strip of stores, originally populated by the likes of Thom McAn Shoes and Pergament Paint. The Planet Fitness on the right is no longer in business.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

Directly above is the Tri-County Flea Market & Jewelry Exchange, which operates in a structure built to serve as one of nine J.W. May's discount department stores.
Photo from Nassau County, New York

Hempstead Turnpike and Division Avenue
Nassau County (Town of Hempstead), New York

The Levittown story begins in August 1929, when Abraham Levitt -along with his sons William and Alfred- formed the Levitt & Sons company and built their first home, in Rockville Center, New York. During the 1930s, the company would develop several upper-class housing tracts on Long Island.

By 1941, Levitt & Sons were building more basic homes for military personnel. William served in the Navy during World War II, where he perfected concepts in the rapid construction of buildings. By the time the war drew to a close in 1945, Levitt was already buying up potato fields on Long Island in anticipation of a major post-war housing boom.

Eventually, 1,200 acres would be acquired for the Levitt & Sons Long Island development. Construction began on the plat, originally known as Island Trees, July 1, 1947. The standard home model, known as the Cape Cod, was designed by Alfred Levitt, encompassed 750 square feet and was rented for 60 dollars a month (a tenant could purchase the home, for $7,500, after one year). The first residents moved in October 1, 1947.

On January 1, 1948, the official name of the unincorporated planned community was changed to Levittown. By July of the same year, Levitt & Sons were completing thirty homes per day, using a quick, cost-efficient, assembly line-at-the-site method. The company began selling (instead of renting) homes to new residents in March 1949. In November 1951, the final Levittown (New York) home was completed. Seventeen thousand four hundred and forty-seven units had been built.

Nearly everything needed for the suburban lifestyle had been provided by Levitt & Sons, including schools, parks, pools and churches. Local shopping could be done at a Village Green. Not a regional shopping center, per se, a retail-type Village Green would contain a small variety of stores, such as a pharmacy and grocer.

This could now be seen as a major oversight of Levitt & Sons. "Levittowners" desired -and required- greater shopping options in the immediate vicinity of their homes. What the Levitts didn't provide, two other New York businessmen did.

In January 1950, The New York Times announced that a consortium headed by Irving Bergen and Gilbert Tilles was planning to build "one of the largest suburban business centers in the east" on a 30 acre tract, located 24 miles east of Times Square, near the center of the Levittown development.

LEVITTOWN CENTER would be built in four phases. The first encompassed 73,100 leasable square feet and fourteen stores and services. It was dedicated with a three-day celebration commencing June 28, 1950.

The Unit One building housed tenants such as Whelan Drug and a 1-level (14,100 square foot) A & P supermarket. Kiddie Corner, a free indoor playroom, was provided for children while Levittown mothers did their shopping. An additional (8,800 square foot) store strip ran along Division Avenue, with a 2-level (11,500 square foot) Professional Building at its northern end.

Unit Two of LEVITTOWN CENTER was dedicated June 10, 1951. It consisted of an 80,800 square foot strip of stores. Tenants were Wilbur Rogers ladies' shop, Glenda Lyn ladies' shop, Lobel's Youth Center, Holly ladies' shop, Loft Candies, Miles Shoes, Wilfred's Coffee Shop, Low's men's shop, Empire Decorators Loft, Father & Son Shoes, Singer Sewing Center, a 2-level (19,400 square foot) W.T. Grant variety store, 2-level (26,700 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 and 2-level (22,200 square foot)  J.C. Penney.

The third stage of the shopping plaza was completed in 1953,  encompassed 18,300 leasable square feet, and included a bank, Thom McAn Shoes, Peter Pan Bakery, Times Square Store and Pergament Paint & Wallpaper.

In July 1954, details surfaced about a new Long Island location for the Brooklyn-based J.W. May's discount chain. They would occupy a 2-level (110,500 square foot) store on the east end of LEVITTOWN CENTER. It opened around August 1, 1955.

Soon after, the Times Square Store in the adjacent building closed and re-opened as a May's Food Center. The bank, on the west end of the building, was also expanded with a second level in 1956. With the completion of all construction, LEVITTOWN CENTER spanned 270,800 leasable square feet and housed thirty-four stores and services.

Soon, a regional-class, open-air mall would be dedicated in the neighboring community of Hicksville. MID-ISLAND PLAZA {3.2 miles north, in Nassau County}, was completed in 1956. NASSAU MALL {.9 mile east, also in Nassau County} was dedicated in 1973. This fully-enclosed complex was much closer to LEVITTOWN CENTER and contributed to a decline of the 20-year-old shopping hub. This was exacerbated by CRESCENT PLAZA, which was adjacent to NASSAU MALL. This strip center began business in 1985.

The demise of the J.W. May's LEVITTOWN CENTER store, in 1982, did not improve the fortunes of the declining retail hub. Neither did the closings of A & P, Grants, J.C. Penney, Woolworth's and Thom McAn in the 1960s and '70s. What had been a regional shopping center, populated with several national chains, had evolved into a collection of mom & pop-type retailers by the mid-1980s.

Today, what was known collectively as LEVITTOWN CENTER is divided among several different proprietors. The store block buildings (encompassing a total of 6.9 acres) are owned individually, with the 23 acres of parking area owned and maintained by the Town of Hempstead.

Only the middle store block is officially marketed as LEVITTOWN CENTER. It was renovated between the years 2001 and 2009 and houses national tenants such as Petco, CVS and Staples. A large P.C. Richard & Son Superstore, an operative of the Farmingdale, Long Island-based appliance and electronics retailer, occupies the east end of the building.

In 2013, the old J.W. May's store, on the east end of the complex, was being leased as the Tri-County Flea Market & Jewelry Exchange. Also in operation in the west store block were Music Trends DJ Equipment Showroom, Serra Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Party Celebrations and Cue Nine Sports Bar & Billiards.  


The New York Times
"Levittown New York" article on Wikipedia
Nassau County, New York tax assessment website
http://tigger.uic.edu / "Picturing Levittown: Gottscho-Schleisner's Architectural and Commercial Photographs of Levittown, Long Island, 1947-1958" / Peter Bacon Hales
http://www.pcrichard.com (P.C. Richard & Son)