To say that Atlantic City has seen better days is to state the obvious. The iconic casino-resort town on the New Jersey shoreline is on the brink of bankruptcy, a month-long government shutdown, and an impending state takeover. And in a cruel twist of fate, the city owes its biggest hotel and casino resort, the Borgata, more than $170 million.
It's a sad saga of a city that was once the East Coast mecca of gambling and grandeur in the 1940s and 1950s. But as popular and important casinos were to the city, hotels played just as big of a role in Atlantic City's storied past.
As author Mary Pilon puts it in her book The Monopolists:
Hotels were the undisputed kings of Atlantic City, with their owners engaged in a race to create the best and grandest accommodations ever seen. Builders, famous guests, and even the hotels themselves became players in the glittering theater that was Atlantic City.
Here's a look at 20 of the most extravagant hotels that once dotted Atlantic City's shoreline.
The Malborough Blenheim Hotel was one of the most successful hotels in Atlantic City in the early 1900s. When it was expanded in 1906, it became the first fire-proof building in the world, a massive concrete structure right on the boardwalk. The Queen Anne-style hotel was the inspiration behind the Ritz Carlton in the HBO show "Boardwalk Empire." Today, the Bally's Park Place Casino and Hotel stands in its place.
The Chalfonte-Haddon Hall was one of a few alcohol-free hotels in Atlantic City owned by Quakers. The two properties were built in the late 1860s across from one another and underwent a number of moves and renovations over the years before becoming Chalfonte-Haddon Hall. When they merged, it became Atlantic City's largest hotel with 1,000 rooms. It was demolished in 1980 to make room for another hotel parking lot.
Hotel Brighton sat on Indiana Avenue and was built in 1888. It originally began as a cottage-style hotel until it expanded into a casino resort under the design of Philly-based architect Lindley Johnson (who once worked for Frank Furness). Ultimately Hotel Brighton was demolished and is now the site of a Sands hotel.
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- Step Inside an Old Gothic Hotel of the Atlantic City Boardwalk [Curbed Philly]
- History of Chalfonte-Haddon Hall [Resorts AC]