William J. Levitt, whose name is identified with houses the way Heinz is with pickles, has 130,000 houses to his credit and is still building.
But the 72-year-old creator of Levittowns is forbidden by a court order to identify himself personally with all the homes and communities his original firm built after World War II.
Levitt, who now heads the Greenvale, N.Y.-based International Community Corp., recently followed past practice and named his new, 3,100-acre adult community near Orlando, Fla. Williamsburg -- after himself.
But the developer couldn't use the name Levitt for his projects because he sold his considerable interest in the publicity held Levitt company -- and rights to his name -- to International Telephone and Telegraph in 1968. He got cash and ITT stock for his holdings.
Bill Levitt stayed on until 1976, but his control was diluted and some in the real estate industry say the Levitt operation was never quite the same after the larger corporation bought it.
ITT brought its corporate approach to home building: There was expansion, decentralization and a maze of corporate intrastructure. Then the Justice Department ordered ITT to divest itself of Levitt because of antitrust problems.
After several years of operation by a court-appointed trustee, the original firm was sold to Starrett Housing Corp. for $34.5 million. Starrett adopted the name Levitt Corp. for its subsidiary, which continued to build in this area.
The original Levitt firm started the Belair community in Prince George's. It was built on the large scale of the Levittowns of Long Island, the Philadelphia area, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. In this area Levitt also built subdivisions in Fairfax, Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
But by the 1970s, the fragmented Levitt firm was no longer what it had been a decade earlier when the area's largest builder turned out more than 1,000 medium-priced houses a year.
This spring Levitt Corp. voluntarily surrendered its building license in Prince George's County after being tagged with 3,500 building code violations in the Northview subdivision at Bowie.
On Tuesday, Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs announced a settlement with Levitt Homes Corp., which will award about $130,000 to 94 homeowners in Northview Estates.
After purchasing their homes in 1977, the buyers complained to the state Consumer Protection Division that Levitt Homes misled them about water and sewer charges made by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
Sachs said that as a result, each buyer has had to pay an average of $30 a month more than they had expected when they settled on the homes.
When Bill Levitt was 70, the man with the most recognizable name in housing decided to make a comeback in Florida. He originally named the development Levittown, Fla., but Starrett and Levitt Corp. protested because of their own residential projects being developed in Florida that use old Levitt trademarks. So Starrett and Levitt Corp. went to court and came away with a verdict preventing Levitt from using his name in connection with the Florida project and from publicizing his connection with his former company.
What really bugged Bill Levitt, according to a story in the New York Law Journal, was that he couldn't personally identify himself with his Williamsburg development nor publicize his prior connection with Levitt and Sons in any future residential developments.
The Circuit Court opinion held that "substantial confusion" in regard to use of the Levitt name was the basis of the decision.
In fact, the court said: "To permit Mr. Levitt to proclaim his 'track record' by recounting his stewardship of Levitt and Sons would, perforce, free him to link his name to those marks and profit from the ensuing confusion."
William J. Levitt's corporate spokesman, Edward Cortese, says that the Williamburg project, 3 1/2 miles from Disney World is alive and well in and has had 697 sales since February -- some of them to previous residents of Levittowns to the north. He said 200 one-story stucco-covered cement-block houses have been completed.
Built on cement slabs, the houses are priced from $35,990 to $50,990.