Everything that dies, someday comes back…maybe
A few years ago I found myself in Atlantic City for a convention of sorts. I didn’t know much about the place but I took some pictures, came home, got bored and did some research. Come along and have a look, won’t you?
Atlantic City and its architecture were revealed to me as a vision of the old and new clanging together into an interesting and sometimes decayed mishmash. The street names in the board game “Monopoly” came from real streets in Atlantic City that are still there. The railroad basically created the city when trains began running from Philadelphia to the beach in the 1850s. Parts and pieces of the old beach town can still be seen if you keep your eyes peeled.
Some Art Deco, Neoclassical and Victorian buildings have survived in the shadows of modern. The turn of the century saw an incredible building boom in the city, taking the form of giant hotels. The city is also famous for salt water taffy, which according to the story, was created by David Bradley whose candy shop was flooded after a major storm. The salt water got into the taffy and Bradley found out he could still sell it to the public.
The wooden boardwalk helped revolutionize beachfront resorts when it appeared in Atlantic City in 1870 as a temporary structure designed to keep sand from being tracked into fancy hotel lobbies. Initially, the boardwalks were taken down when the tourists weren’t in season but they became so popular, they were eventually left in place all year round. In 1944 the boardwalk in Atlantic City extended nearly seven miles to Margate, the next town down the coast.
During Prohibition, the law ignored Atlantic City and the area became known for illegal booze and gambling. After World War II, the city fell into decline as the rise of the automobile siphoned vacationers away from riding the railroad. The advent of jet planes and cheap flights pulled more sun worshippers to Miami Beach. Most of the original big hotels fell to the wrecking ball in the 1970’s and 80s but the little lady seen above somehow survived.
Legalized gambling spurred Atlantic City back to life in the late 1970’s as Donald Trump and other developers began developing new hotels, this time with casinos as the anchors. But relaxed gambling laws in nearby states are now once again pulling people away from A.C. The state of New Jersey appears to be taking an active role in correcting some of the wrongs of the past by devoting resources to improving infrastructure and public spaces that go beyond gambling. Ready to make a bet on Atlantic City? It may come back.
The charming beach community of Margate lies just south of Atlantic City. The town is guarded by Lucy, a giant wooden elephant. Lucy was originally designed as a roadside attraction to lure property buyers to the beach. She began her life in 1881, once had a family living inside her and also housed a bar. She’s been damaged by fires and storms over the years but she’s also been restored as a tourist attraction that you can still visit today.