HOUSING: Land Rush

On a Long Island plot 20 miles from Manhattan, Builders Levitt & Sons put up a trim two-bedroom bungalow. Like other U.S. builders, they knew a slump had curbed real estate sales; many a new house was going begging because the price was too high. But Bill Levitt felt sure there were plenty of buyers, if the house —and price—were right.

He thought he had the right house. The living room had a big picture window; the fireplace boasted a second opening in the kitchen for indoor barbecues. The kitchen shone with stainless...

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