Getting Back to America’s Playground
Submitted by Isabella Fiore
When travelling to Atlantic City, tourists tend to be wowed by the nightlife and the entertainment that the city has to offer, but very rarely does a guest come to the Absecon Island to immerse themselves in the rich culture of the city. When people think Atlantic City, the first thought is Casinos, then Beach, then maybe some sights before heading on home. What many do not realize, is that our island still has so much connected the glory days when people used to dress up to take a stroll along the world-famous Boardwalk, before casinos ever entered the picture. That part of our beloved town is what made us great, and is something that everyone, both tourist and local alike, should become familiar with and love.
Besides the Boardwalk, which put Atlantic City on the map and held some of the best attractions from the Diving Horse to the original Steel Pier, one of the city’s oldest structures is “Abbie”, or the Absecon Lighthouse. Around since the late 1800’s and commissioned by the founder of AC, Dr. Jonathan Pitney, our Abbie still has her original Frejnel lens, and you can climb the 228 steps to the top just to see it, along with one of the best views in the city. It is a small fee to climb, but the Keeper’s House at her base is free to the public, and also serves as an active museum about our cherished Lighthouse.
Some other long-standing structures include Lucy the Elephant (actually in Margate, but we still consider her our girl), and oddly enough Resorts Casino. Before it became AC’s first casino in 1978, as well as the first casino to open up outside of Las Vegas, the original structure was comprised of two Quaker boarding houses, the Chalfonte House that opened in 1868, and the Haddon House, which opened in 1869. Both houses were bought out by the famous Leeds and Lippincott families, and were remodeled into grand hotels in the early 1900’s while keeping the main design intact. When you visit Resorts Casino, you can still see the original structures of the two buildings, making Resorts Casino have that extremely vintage look. Lucy, who’s over 135 years old, is the largest elephant in the world, is a National Historic Landmark, and was originally commissioned to be a hotel! Interesting, right?
Aside from actual historic structure, there is much of the city that celebrates the rich culture and history of our island. When you take a cruise with AC Cruises in Gardner’s Basin, you can see the old rum-runner buildings which were used during Prohibition to sneak in alcohol to the city by boat. With A1 Tours, you can not only take a Historic Boardwalk tour, walking you down the Boards while teaching you about its past, you can also take a tour inspired by HBO’S Boardwalk Empire, talking all about Atlantic City’s mob bosses. You can then visit the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey at the Noyes Arts Garage, which holds on display all kinds of photographs and artifacts educating on AC’s diverse lineage, or stop on by Boardwalk Hall to not only see where countless artists have been hosted, but to also hear the world’s largest pipe organ, there since 1929!
Now, if you want to hear what Atlantic City used to sound like, you can always stop by Dante Hall Theater the last three weekends of July to see the 500 Club Revived show with Dave Damiani and the No Vacancy Orchestra, as they perform the big band, Rat Pack jazz that poured out of the hippest club in AC history! The 500 Club kept the city swaying from the 40’s to the 70’s, and you can witness their legacy every Friday and Saturday at 8pm for the rest of July at Dante!
No matter which way you choose to reconnect with AC’s history, be sure to at least experience some of it, for besides what I just listed, there is so much more to our city than meets the eye. So, go out and see the real America’s Playground, and as always…
See You in Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore!
Getting Back to America’s Playground