Atlantic City in New Jersey

Monday, 11 June 2018 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General

© flickr.com - Bob Jagendorf/cc-by-2.0

© flickr.com – Bob Jagendorf/cc-by-2.0

Atlantic City is a resort city in Atlantic County, New Jersey, known for its casinos, boardwalks, and beaches. It has a population of 39,000. The city was incorporated on May 1, 1854, from portions of Egg Harbor Township and Galloway Township. It borders Absecon, Brigantine, Pleasantville, Ventnor City, West Atlantic City, and the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantic City inspired the U.S. version of the board game Monopoly, especially the street names. Since 1921, Atlantic City has been the home of the Miss America pageant. In 1976, New Jersey voters legalized casino gambling in Atlantic City. The first casino opened two years later. Just 200 km south of New York City, the city is one of the most popular destinations for short-holiday travelers from the New York metropolitan area.

In the early part of the 20th century, Atlantic City went through a radical building boom. Many of the modest boarding houses that dotted the boardwalk were replaced with large hotels. Two of the city’s most distinctive hotels were the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel and the Traymore Hotel. In 1903, Josiah White III bought a parcel of land near Ohio Avenue and the boardwalk and built the Queen Anne style Marlborough House. The hotel was a hit and, in 1905–06, he chose to expand the hotel and bought another parcel of land next door to his Marlborough House. In an effort to make his new hotel a source of conversation, White hired the architectural firm of Price and McLanahan. The firm made use of reinforced concrete, a new building material invented by Jean-Louis Lambot in 1848 (Joseph Monier received the patent in 1867). The hotel’s Spanish and Moorish themes, capped off with its signature dome and chimneys, represented a step forward from other hotels that had a classically designed influence. White named the new hotel the Blenheim and merged the two hotels into the Marlborough-Blenheim. Bally’s Atlantic City was later constructed at this location. The Traymore Hotel was located at the corner of Illinois Avenue and the boardwalk. Begun in 1879 as a small boarding house, the hotel grew through a series of uncoordinated expansions. By 1914, the hotel’s owner, Daniel White, taking a hint from the Marlborough-Blenheim, commissioned the firm of Price and McLanahan to build an even bigger hotel. Rising 16 stories, the tan brick and gold-capped hotel would become one of the city’s best-known landmarks. The hotel made use of ocean-facing hotel rooms by jutting its wings farther from the main portion of the hotel along Pacific Avenue. One by one, additional large hotels were constructed along the boardwalk, including the Brighton, Chelsea, Shelburne, Ambassador, Ritz Carlton, Mayflower, Madison House, and the Breakers. The Quaker-owned Chalfonte House, opened in 1868, and Haddon House, opened in 1869, flanked North Carolina Avenue at the beach end. Over the years, their original wood-frame structures would be enlarged, and even moved closer to the beach. The modern Chalfonte Hotel, eight stories tall, opened in 1904. The modern Haddon Hall was built in stages and was completed in 1929, at eleven stories. By this time, they were under the same ownership and merged into the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel, becoming the city’s largest hotel with nearly 1,000 rooms. By 1930, the Claridge, the city’s last large hotel before the casinos, opened its doors. The 400-room Claridge was built by a partnership that included renowned Philadelphia contractor John McShain. At 24 stories, it would become known as the “Skyscraper By The Sea.” The city became known as “The World’s Playground”.

The 1930s through the 1960s were a heyday for nightclub entertainment. Popular venues on the white-populated south side included the 500 Club, the Clicquot Club, and the Jockey Club. On the north side, home to African Americans in the racially segregated city, a black entertainment district reigned on Kentucky Avenue. Four major nightclubs – Club Harlem, the Paradise Club, Grace’s Little Belmont, and Wonder Gardens – drew both black and white patrons. During the summer tourist season, jazz and R&B music could be heard into the wee hours of the morning. Soul food restaurants and ribs joints also lined Kentucky Avenue, including Wash’s Restaurant, Jerry’s and Sap’s.

Like many older east coast cities after World War II, Atlantic City became plagued with poverty, crime, corruption, and general economic decline in the mid-to-late 20th century. The neighborhood known as the “Inlet” became particularly impoverished. The reasons for the resort’s decline were multi-layered. First, the automobile became more readily available to many Americans after the war. Atlantic City had initially relied upon visitors coming by train and staying for a couple of weeks. The car allowed them to come and go as they pleased, and many people would spend only a few days, rather than weeks. The advent of suburbia also played a significant role. With many families moving to their own private houses, luxuries such as home air conditioning and swimming pools diminished their interest in flocking to the luxury beach resorts during the hot summer. But perhaps the biggest factor in the decline in Atlantic City’s popularity came from cheap, fast jet service to other premier resorts, such as Miami Beach and the Bahamas.

By the late 1960s, many of the resort’s once great hotels were suffering from embarrassing vacancy rates. Most of them were either shut down, converted to cheap apartments, or converted to nursing home facilities by the end of the decade. Prior to and during the advent of legalized gambling, many of these hotels were demolished. The Breakers, the Chelsea, the Brighton, the Shelburne, the Mayflower, the Traymore and the Marlborough-Blenheim were demolished in the 1970s and 1980s. Of the many pre-casino resorts that bordered the boardwalk, only the Claridge, the Dennis, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Haddon Hall survive to this day as parts of Bally’s Atlantic City, a condo complex, and Resorts Atlantic City. The old Ambassador Hotel was purchased by Ramada in 1978 and was gutted to become the Tropicana Casino and Resort Atlantic City, only reusing the steelwork of the original building. Smaller hotels off the boardwalk, such as the Madison also survived.

The Tropicana © DrVenkman The Borgata © Pilotbob/cc-by-sa-3.0 The former Trump Taj Mahal, today the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City © TonyTheTiger/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Atlantic City Boardwalk © Raul654/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Atlantic City Boardwalk © Italo2712 The Atlantic City Boardwalk © Raul654/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Atlantic City Boardwalk © Italo2712 © flickr.com - Bob Jagendorf/cc-by-2.0
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The former Trump Taj Mahal, today the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City © TonyTheTiger/cc-by-sa-3.0
With the redevelopment of Las Vegas and the opening of two casinos in Connecticut in the early 1990s, along with newly built casinos in the nearby Philadelphia metro area in the 2000s, Atlantic City’s tourism began to decline due to its failure to diversify away from gaming. Determined to expand, in 1999 the Atlantic City Redevelopment Authority partnered with Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to develop a new roadway to a barren section of the city near the Marina. Nicknamed “The Tunnel Project”, Steve Wynn planned the proposed Mirage Atlantic City around the idea that he would connect the $330 million tunnel stretching 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from the Atlantic City Expressway to his new resort. The roadway was later officially named the Atlantic City-Brigantine Connector, and funnels incoming traffic off of the expressway into the city’s marina district and Brigantine. Although Wynn’s plans for development in the city were scrapped in 2002, the tunnel opened in 2001. The new roadway prompted Boyd Gaming in partnership with MGM/Mirage to build Atlantic City’s newest casino. The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened in July 2003, and its success brought an influx of developers to Atlantic City with plans for building grand Las Vegas style mega casinos to revitalize the aging city. Owing to economic conditions and the late 2000s recession, many of the proposed mega casinos never went further than the initial planning stages. One of these developers was Pinnacle Entertainment, who purchased the Sands Atlantic City, only to close it permanently November 11, 2006. The following year, the resort was demolished in a dramatic, Las Vegas styled implosion, the first of its kind in Atlantic City. While Pinnacle Entertainment intended to replace it with a $1.5–2 billion casino resort, the company canceled its construction plans and plans to sell the land. The biggest disappointment was when MGM Resorts International announced that it would pull out of all development for Atlantic City, effectively ending their plans for the MGM Grand Atlantic City. In 2006, Morgan Stanley purchased 20 acres (8.1 ha) directly north of the Showboat Atlantic City Hotel and Casino for a new $2 billion plus casino resort. Revel Entertainment Group was named as the project’s developer for the Revel Casino (today Ocean Resort Casino). Revel was hindered with many problems, the biggest setback occurring in April 2010 when Morgan Stanley, the owner of 90% of Revel Entertainment Group, decided to discontinue funding for continued construction and put its stake in Revel up for sale.

The Atlantic City Boardwalk opened on June 26, 1870, a temporary structure erected for the summer season that was the first boardwalk in the United States. The Boardwalk starts at Absecon Inlet in the north and runs along the beach south-west to the city limit 4 miles (6.4 km) away then continues 1 1⁄2 miles (2.4 km) into Ventnor City. Casino/hotels front the boardwalk, as well as retail stores, restaurants, and amusements. Notable attractions include the Boardwalk Hall, House of Blues, and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum. In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy destroyed the northern part of the boardwalk fronting Absecon Inlet, in the residential section called South Inlet. The oceanfront boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City casinos survived the storm with minimal damage. The Boardwalk has been home to several piers over the years. The first pier, Ocean Pier, was built in 1882. It eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished. Another famous pier built during that time was Steel Pier, opened in 1898, which once billed itself as “The Showplace of the Nation”. It now operates as an amusement pier across from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City. Captain John Lake Young opened “Young’s Million Dollar Pier” as an arcade hall in 1903, and on the seaward side “erected a marble mansion”, fronted by a formal garden, with lighting and landscaping designed by Young’s longtime friend Thomas Alva Edison. Young’s Million Dollar Pier, Atlantic City’s largest amusement pier during its time”, was transformed into a shopping mall in the 1980s, known as “Shops on Ocean One”. In 2006, the Ocean One mall was bought, renovated and re-branded as “The Pier Shops at Caesars” and in 2015, it was renamed Playground Pier. Garden Pier, located opposite Ocean Resort Casino, once housed a movie theater, and is now home to the Atlantic City Historical Museum. Two other piers, an amusement pier named Steeplechase Pier and a Heinz 57-owned pier named Heinz Pier were destroyed in the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane. Steeplechase was rebuilt after the hurricane, and survived into the casino era. The “Steeplechase Pier Heliport” on Steel Pier is named in its honor. The last of the four piers still standing is Schiff’s Central Pier, which is the only one still offering the same attractions it did when it opened – a few stores, and the playcade, having reopened in 1990 after an $8 million renovation.

Atlantic City has many different shopping districts and malls, many of which are located inside or adjacent to the casino resorts. Several smaller themed retail and dining areas in casino hotels include the Borgata Shops and The Shoppes at Water Club inside the Borgata, the Waterfront Shops inside of Harrah’s, Spice Road inside the Trump Taj Mahal, while Resorts Casino Hotel has a small collection of stores and restaurants. Major shopping malls are also located in and around Atlantic City. In Atlantic City, shops include:

  • Playground Pier, an underwater-themed indoor high end shopping center located on the Million Dollar Pier formerly known as “Shops on Ocean One”. The four-story shopping mall contains themed floors.
  • Tanger Outlets The Walk, an outdoor outlet shopping center spanning several blocks. The only outlet mall in Atlantic County and South Jersey, The Walk opened in 2003 and is undergoing an expansion.
  • The Quarter at Tropicana, an old Havana-themed indoor shopping center at the Tropicana, which contains over 40 stores, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Ever since Atlantic City’s growth as a resort town, numerous attractions and tourist traps have originated in the city. A popular fixture in the early 20th century at the Steel Pier was horse diving, which was introduced by William “Doc” Carver. The Steel Pier featured several other novelty attractions, including the Diving Bell, human high-divers and a water circus. Advertisements for the Steel Pier in its heyday featured plaster sculptures set upon wooden bases along roads leading up to Atlantic City. By the end of World War II, many animal demonstrations declined in popularity after criticisms of animal abuse and neglect. Rolling chairs, which were introduced in 1876 and in continuous use since 1887, have been a boardwalk fixture to this day. While powered carts appeared in the 1960s, the original and most common were made of wicker. The wicker canopied chairs-on-wheels are manually pushed the length of the boardwalk by attendants, much like a Rickshaw. The Absecon Lighthouse is a coastal lighthouse located in the South Inlet section of Atlantic City overlooking Absecon Inlet. It is the tallest lighthouse in the state of New Jersey and is the third tallest masonry lighthouse in the United States. Construction began in 1854, with the light first lit on January 15, 1857. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1933 and although the light still shines every night, it is no longer an active navigational aid. Gardner’s Basin, which is home to the Atlantic City Aquarium as well as small shops and restaurants, is located a short distance north of Absecon Light. Since 2003, Atlantic City has hosted Thunder over the Boardwalk, an annual airshow over the boardwalk. The yearly event, a joint venture between the New Jersey Air National Guard‘s 177th Fighter Wing along with several casinos, attracts over 750,000 visitors each year. While located 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Atlantic City in Margate City, Lucy the Elephant has become almost an icon for the Atlantic City area. Lucy is a six-story elephant-shaped example of novelty architecture, constructed of wood and tin sheeting in 1882 by James V. Lafferty in an effort to sell real estate and attract tourism. Over the years, Lucy had served as a restaurant, business office, cottage, and tavern (the last closed by Prohibition). Lucy had fallen into disrepair by the 1960s and was scheduled for demolition. The structure was moved and refurbished as a result of a “Save Lucy” campaign in 1970 and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, and is open as a museum.

Read more on Atlantic City, AtlanticCityNJ.com, VisitNJ.org – Atlantic City and Wikipedia Atlantic City (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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