The area was originally called Absecon Island and a resort was started in the 1820’s but it was not until the railroad arrived in 1854 that Atlantic City really hit the growth trail. The railroad made the city much more accessible than places like Cape May that required a ferry journey. In the 20th century Atlantic City went into a severe decline which was only reversed after gambling was made legal in the 1970s and big casinos started to line the boardwalk. Nowadays Las Vegas has turned itself into family destination as well as being a gambling resort. Atlantic City has failed to make this change and In recent years gambling has been in decline due to the slightly down market image of the city plus more relaxed regulation of gambling in other states. Several of the big casinos in Atlantic City have closed as a result.
Trump Taj Mahal casino and Boardwalk
Although most of the casinos are rather plain in comparison to their Las Vegas counterparts, a few such as the Trump Taj have tried to inject some fantasy into the formula. We might have stayed at the during our 2005 trip to Atlantic City but found that we could not book via the internet so we stayed at Bally’s. The Trump Taj later joined the rest of us in the 21st century with online bookings but in 2016 it closed. The building is being converted into a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino due to open 2018. The boardwalk runs for over 7 kilometres (4 miles). Of the old hotels that used to line the boardwalk only the Ritz remains, now converted to condominiums.
A high loss of ships and lives off Absecon Beach resulted in 1857 in the completion of Absecon Lighthouse in a place that is nowadays close to the northern end of the Atlantic City boardwalk. At 52 metres (171 feet) high, it is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and the third tallest in the USA. It was decommissioned in 1933, thereby allowing Atlantic City to develop in to a high rise sprawl. Now restored and preserved as a New Jersey Historic Site, visitors can climb the 228 steps to the top for a view across Atlantic City.
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Atlantic City once had many piers, but they fell into disrepair (and ultimately into the sea) when the city when into decline. Steel Pier is no exception. Opened in 1898, it quickly became a leading entertainment venue where top stars appeared. It went in to a long, slow decline. Part of the pier was washed away in a storm in 1962 and the Marine Ballroom was destroyed by fire in 1970. It finally closed in 1976 and was severely damaged in a 1982 fire. The building of the Trump Taj Mahal casino opposite it made an amusement pier viable, so Steel Pier reopened in 1993 and has over 20 rides.
Old houses, Rhode Island Avenue
During our morning walk along the boardwalk we were surprised by the large number of police, many riding bicycles. When we came to the northern end of the boardwalk we found that the old, run down Atlantic City has not disappeared, it has just been pushed further away from the casino area. Some of the houses in this ghost town area are still occupied, but many were boarded up. Sadly apart from the lighthouse there seems to be no impetus towards preserving any of the old Atlantic City and in a few years we suspect that there will be more boring but plush condominiums on this site.
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