Belair at Bowie, Maryland, Bowie, Prince George's County, MD
Significance: In December 1957, the nationally and internationally renowned residential construction firm of Levitt and Sons announced its intention to build a fourth major postwar community on the former Woodward estate, which was located in Maryland on the metropolitan fringe of Washington, D.C. In the decade that followed, the firm oversaw the transformation of farm and pasture into an entirely new town that was wholly suburban in character.
"Belair at Bowie, Maryland," the name under which the venture was developed and marketed, emerged from more than a decade's experience in mass housing by a firm whose name and identity were synonymous with residential construction and community building. Most of the construction methods and marketing strategies associated with Levitt and Sons were being developed and refined by builders throughout the country. Yet, the firm's massive scale of operations and high level of vertical integration set it apart from its peers to such an extent that Levitt and Sons and its three Levittowns came to be representative of the shape and structure of the building industry as a whole.
As with its three earlier postwar mega-developments, Levitt and Sons planned Belair as a complete bedroom community with provisions made for schools, churches, shopping centers, and recreation facilities. Although extending from experience and precedent set by the Levittowns, the company remained adamant that Belair "will not become another Levittown," communities which, by the late 1950s, had come to be predominantly, and not always positively, associated with the middle-income working class. With Belair, Levitt and Sons completed a process started at Levittown, New Jersey -the creation of a community that was entirely directed to middle-class consumers. Relying on the cornerstones of its business acumen -the close and frequent scrutiny of their primary products (the house models), expansive marketing campaigns, and the ability to offer more house at less cost through high-volume building -Levitt and Sons provided white-collar Washingtonians with a unique and appealing option within the regional housing market, an option ultimately taken by thousands of middle-class households in the national capital region.
Survey number: HABS MD-1253
Building/structure dates: ca. 1957- ca. 1968 Initial Construction