Lillian Lontz Pikus, 84, interior designer

Posted: March 26, 2003

Lillian M. Lontz Pikus, 84, of Burlington City, an interior decorator and businesswoman who helped furnish sample homes for suburban developer William Levitt, died of heart failure Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden.

Mrs. Pikus, a lifelong resident of Burlington City, was a tireless promoter of her hometown. She was instrumental in downtown redevelopment, leaving her interior-design mark on municipal buildings, homes and businesses.

In the late 1950s, Levitt enlisted Mrs. Pikus to help design the interiors of sample homes for what is now Willingboro. Then called Levittown, it was one of several communities created by Levitt and his family, including Levittown in Bucks County.

The Levitts transformed the landscape by using fast, assembly-line techniques to build inexpensive homes. Mrs. Pikus continued to work with Levitt's company in communities around the country.

Mrs. Pikus graduated from Burlington City High School in 1935 and worked as clerk at the Haines & Haines insurance company before marrying William J. Pikus in 1936. She later juggled raising six children and working from home as an interior designer.

In the late 1950s, Mrs. Pikus and a partner opened the Town & Country Dress Shop. She operated the store for five years and then began working with Levitt.

When her work with the developer ended, Mrs. Pikus turned her attention to Burlington City's deteriorating downtown. She bought two buildings on High Street, the center of the historic district. Mrs Pikus refurbished the buildings, opening a store called Antique Row in the 1970s. The move was a critical part of the downtown's $2 million revitalization.

"She was such a good friend to the city of Burlington," Mayor Herman Costello said. "She had a great feeling for the city's past, and she was outspoken in what should and shouldn't be done with a given building. More times than not, she was right."

City officials called on Mrs. Pikus for advice on design elements, and she handpicked furniture, trimmings and fabrics. At the time of her death, she was involved in the design of the new municipal building.

Mrs. Pikus was a member of the Women's Club of Burlington and the Burlington City Historical Commission. She was chairwoman of the Burlington City Charter Commission during the 1970s, and she had been a member of the Burlington County and Burlington City Historical Societies

Her husband died in 1991.

Surviving are sons Lawrence and John; daughters Marianne Dodge, Eugenia Sonstein and Kathryn Shaw; and 17 grandchildren. Son Joseph preceded her in death.

Friends may call from 9 to 10 a.m. today at the Page Funeral Home, 302 E. Union St., Burlington City. A Funeral Mass will be said at 10:30 a.m. today at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, 223 E. Union St., Burlington City. Burial will be in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Burlington City.

Contact staff writer Kristin E. Holmes at 215-854-2791 or kholmes@phillynews.com.

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