Monday, August 27, 2012

Levitt Wins Bid to Purchase Belair

August 27, 1957 (55 years ago today): William J. Levitt through his Levitt & Sons real estate development company won a bid to purchase Belair for $1,750,000 from the estate of William Woodward, Jr.  Levitt was believed to be planning to build 5,000 to 6,000 houses on the nearly 2,300 acre property.

The purchase was the culmination of a year long fight to buy the property.  Levitt claimed to have offered $1,500,000 for Belair in September, 1956, even going so far as to deliver a $150,000 down payment to Hanover Bank of New York, executors of the Woodward estate.  Hanover Bank told Levitt at the time that the property had already been sold, but it wasn't until October 10, 1956 that a contract to purchase the property was signed by New York developer Webb & Knapp for only $1,187,500.

The Prince George's County Circuit Court invalidated the Webb & Knapp purchase of Belair in March, 1957 because it was believed that the executors had not made an effort to secure the best price, and a new bidding process was ordered to take place.  The Maryland Court of Appeals later upheld the Circuit Court's ruling, and Levitt outbid the other developers that August.

In "This Crazy Thing Called Loved," a book about the relationship between William (Billy) Woodward, Jr and his wife Ann, author Susan Braudy indicated that the Woodward family worked behind the scenes to block the sale of Belair to Levitt in 1956 because the family did not want a Levittown built at Belair.  Ann Woodward was reportedly saddened that Belair "would be broken up into plots for 5,000 ranch houses."

Regardless of the outcome of the court battle, it was clear that the Belair property was destined to be developed.

Levitt Acquires Belair With Bid of $1,750,000
The Washington Post
August 28, 1957

Appeal of Resale Order For Belair Stud Argued
The washington Post
June 7, 1957

Battle Looms in Belair Sale
The Washington Post
March 9, 1957

This Crazy Thing Called Love
Susan Braudy

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