HIWAY AMERICA -ATLANTIC CITY N.J. AT THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE STATE
first. The area was developed in the nineteenth century as a resort and became extremely popular; its famous beaches and easy access from Northeastern cities made it one of America’s most prominent holiday destinations for over a century. After a decline in the 1960s, the introduction of gambling in 1978 allowed Atlantic City to reinvent itself and the Boardwalk to regain some of its former prominence.
Atlantic City’s Development
In the early 1850s, Dr. Jonathan Pitney, an Absecon resident, felt that the island would make a good health resort. However, he realized it would need better access. He and his partner Richard Osborn began the construction of the Camden-Atlantic City Railroad. On July 5, 1854, the first tourist train arrived from Camden, New Jersey.
The island quickly became a popular vacation spot; luxurious hotels and cheap rooming houses sprung up all over town. However, sand was a major problem: Visitors would track it everywhere, including railroad cars and the lobbies of expensive hotels.
“In 1870,” says Atlantic City Online, “Alexander Boardman, a conductor on the Atlantic City-Camden Railroad, was asked to think up a way to keep the sand out of the hotels and rail cars.”
He and hotel owner Jacob Keim presented the idea of a boardwalk to the city council. Running from the beach to the town, and costing half of Atlantic City’s 1870 tax revenue, an 8-foot-wide boardwalk was built. In 1880, it was replaced by a larger version.
National Prominence and Miss America
Atlantic City grew rapidly after the Civil War. “Lavish hotels, enormous electrical signs and rambunctious, colorful amusement piers started to hug it from both sides,” says AtlanticCityNJ.com.
A serious problem the town had, though, was that the tourism-based economy slowed massively in winter. As an attempt to keep tourists around past Labor Day, a beauty contest was held on September 8 and 9, 1921. At first called the Atlantic City Pageant, the contests quickly became nationally famous.
World War II
Convention Hall, on the Boardwalk, was made a U.S. Army training facility during the Second World War. Reports AtlanticCityNJ.com, “Squads of armed forces could be seen marching up and down the boards. Mock beachfront invasions and war bond rallies were common as well.”
In response to fears of German submarines watching along the coast, Boardwalk lamps were shaded.
1950s and 1960s
In the decades after the war, the Boardwalk was popular with celebrities. “Some famous feet to tread upon the boards,” says AtlanticCityNJ.com, “included Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Durante, Ed Sullivan, Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra, Milton Berle, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. The Beatles ate the city’s world-famous subs on it. Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon opened a bowling alley” there.
The rise of cheap air travel, an increasingly sophisticated population and a general demographic shift away from the Northeast led to a sharp decline in Atlantic City’s fortunes in the late 1960s. In 1978, the first casino was opened in an attempt to reverse this decline, bringing Atlantic City back to prominence in a different form.
AMAZING LIGHT SHOW AT ATLANTIC CITY CONVENTION CENTER
- AC boardwalk shored up for Miss America crowds (mysanantonio.com)