Atlantic City's Rich History
The first permanent Boardwalk was built in 1870 as a way to keep sand off of hotel carpets. Today, the Boardwalk is more than four miles in length and 60 feet across at its widest points. The present structure is seated on concrete and steel pilings and constructed of thousands of two-by-fours. The boards are replaced approximately every 12 years.
Prior to being Atlantic City's first casino, Resorts International was known as the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel, and during World War 2, it was used as a military hospital.
Saltwater taffy was created in Atlantic City in 1883 when an entrepreneur's candy stand on the beach was flooded during high tide, saturating his taffy.
Historic Boardwalk Hall has played host to a sparkling list of dazzling entertainers and knockout sporting events throughout its 81 year history. A premier entertainment spot for visitors and residents alike, this unique seaside arena has helped to solidify Atlantic City's reputation as the entertainment destination of the Northeast.
Built in 1929 to host the city's growing convention industry, the historic Boardwalk Hall was touted an architectural marvel at that time. With its large 137 foot-high barrel vault ceiling, the Atlantic City Convention Hall as it was formerly known, laid claim to the world's largest clear span space during that period.
Boardwalk Hall takes pride in a number of firsts. In 1930, it hosted the nation's first indoor college football game; from July 1942 until November 16, 1945 the Army Air Forces used Convention Hall as a headquarters and training facility during World War II; the country's first indoor helicopter flight was made here in 1970, and Boardwalk Hall was listed on the United State Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark in 1987. In the early years, a number of celebrated artists have performed at Boardwalk Hall including The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, the big band orchestras of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and Woody Herman. It was also the longtime home
to the Miss America Pageant In December 1998 the facility began an extensive three year, $90 million renovation and restoration that would transform the building into a modern special events arena capable of variable seating for up to 14,770 people. In 2001, the new, more modern Hall was unveiled with much fanfare. Renamed "Boardwalk Hall," the building was officially re-opened with a moving patriotic ceremony held on October 11, 2001 to honor those who serve and protect our country, state and communities.
Since reopening, a host of world-class entertainers and national touring productions have taken the legendary stage, such as icons Lady Gaga, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Buffett, and Andrea Bocelli, among others. Boardwalk Hall has also showcased some of the most exciting professional boxing matches carded in recent history, including 2008's Kelly Pavlik vs. Gary Lockett WBC/WBO Middleweight Championship showdown and Ring magazine's 2003 Fight Of The Year, Gatti vs. Ward III. Other popular sports and family entertainment have included the annual Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championship, Professional Bull Riders, New Jersey's State High School Wrestling Championships, Walking with Dinosaurs, Disney On Ice, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and WWE. From 2011 through 2013, Boardwalk Hall will play host to the ECAC Hockey Men's Championship.
The Steel Pier, originally built in 1898, is a 1,000-foot-long (300 m) amusement pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey located on the boardwalk. In 1904, a storm washed away part of Steel Pier and many engineers stated that it could not be rebuilt. Future mayor of Atlantic City Edward L. Bader, and his company, accepted the challenge to rebuild it. His success with that job led to more work for him in Atlantic City. From 1935 through 1938 Steel Pier was where Miss America was crowned. It was described as "An Amusement City at Sea" and "A Vacation in Itself." It also was once called the "Showplace of the Nation" and included such acts as the High Diving horse, Rex the Wonder Dog, a water-skiing canine in the 1930s, and even Frank Sinatra and Al Jolson " Rain or Shine ... There's Always a Good Show on Steel Pier" was another phrase used to describe the venue's varied entertainment. The pier used to be much longer, but a December, 1969 fire six months before the opening of the 1970 season shortened its size by about a third. The original wooden pier with steel underpinnings was destroyed in a 1982 fire; the current concrete structure dates from 1993.
Because of its location in South Jersey, hugging the Atlantic Ocean between marshlands and islands, Atlantic City presented itself as prime real estate and a potential resort town for developers. In 1853, the first commercial hotel, The Belloe House, located at Massachusetts and Atlantic Avenue, was built. The city was incorporated in 1854, the same year in which the Camden and Atlantic Railroad train service began. Built on the edge of the bay, this served as the direct link of this remote parcel of land with Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1874, almost 500,000 passengers a year were coming to Atlantic City by rail. The first boardwalk was built in 1870, along a portion of the beach to help hotel owners keep sand out of their lobbies. Because of its effectiveness and popularity the boardwalk was expanded and modified several times in the following years. The historic length of the boardwalk, before the 1944 hurricane, was about 7 miles (11 km) and it extended from Atlantic City to Longport, through Ventnor and Margate.
The first official road from the mainland to the island was completed in
1870, after 17 years of construction. The road, which ran from Pleasantville, had a $0.30 toll. The first free road was Albany Avenue, constructed over the meadows from Pleasantville.
By 1878 because of the growing popularity of the city, one railroad line could no longer keep up with demand. Soon, the Philadelphia-Atlantic City railroad and the Reading railroad were constructed to transport tourists to Atlantic City. At this point massive hotels like The United States and the Surf House, as well as smaller rooming houses, had sprung up all over town. The United States Hotel took up a full city block between Atlantic, Pacific, Delaware, and Maryland Avenues. These hotels were not only impressive in size, but featured the most updated amenities, and were considered quite luxurious for their time. On Wednesday June 16, 1880, Atlantic City was formally opened.
In the 1920s, with tourism at its peak, many historians consider this decade Atlantic City's golden age. During prohibition, liquor flowed freely and gambling regularly took place in the back rooms of nightclubs and restaurants. This era in the city's history has inspired the HBO Original Series Boardwalk Empire.
During the 1940s, 1950 and 1960s the 500 Club was the place to be in Atlantic City. It was run by Paul "Skinny D'Amato", who got control of the club when its previous owner, Phil Barr died. The club featured live music and stage shows and some back room action.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis who had an act that they performed in NY, appeared at the 500 Club but were initially poorly received. When they started adding more slapstick stuff to their act the audiences loved it, so they clowned it up even more and became a huge success.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis carried the routines that they developed at the 500 Club on to both television and film and they became stars.
Skinny D'Amato gave Frank Sinatra some help when he was first starting out. Afterward, when Frank became famous he often went back to Atlantic City to perform at Skinny's 500 Club, where he usually appeared before a packed house. He was often accompanied by some of his rat pack, including Sammy Davis Jr., who's mother, tended bar at the nearby Graces' Little Belmont.
In those years the 500 Club drew a crowd, not only for the club's shows, but also for the gambling that went on in the back rooms.
The 500 Club was located at 6 Missouri Avenue. It burned down in 1973.
Atlantic City hosted the 1964 Democratic National Convention which nominated Lyndon Johnson for President and Hubert Humphrey as Vice President.