Atlantic City boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey (Steve Greer)

Atlantic City boardwalk, Atlantic City, New Jersey (Steve Greer)

Famous for its boardwalk and casino gambling, Atlantic City is a resort community located on Absecon Island on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean Home of the Miss America pageant, and salt water taffy, the City has had a colorful and varied history.

Long before Atlantic City was founded, the island thick with woods and lined with dunes, was the summer home of the Lenni Lenape Indians, an Algonquian-speaking people. Early colonial settlers in South Jersey largely ignored the island because it could only be reached by boat. While the exact date of the first permanent settlement has never been determined, it is generally agreed that Jeremiah Leeds was the first to build and occupy a year-round residence on the island.

By 1850, the potential attraction of the island’s cool breezes and beaches was recognized and the idea for developing a resort was first promoted by Dr. Jonathan Pitney, a local physician. With transportation the key to development, Dr. Pitney, along with a group of businessmen, secured a railroad charter in 1852. Two years later, construction of the Camden-Atlantic rail line was completed for $1.2 million.

Atlantic City’s proximity to major population centers, coupled with convenient, inexpensive train access, allowed thousands to flee hot cities and enjoy summer pleasures at the cool seashore. From the 1880s to 1940s, Atlantic City was a major vacation resort. The city grew rapidly and offered lodging, dining, entertainment and amusements for all ages.. Attractions such as the Boardwalk, amusement piers, floor shows and beauty pageants drew throngs of visitors, including many famous people, throughout the years.

In the 1950s, as air travel to vacation spots in Florida and the Caribbean became more widely available, Atlantic City’s popularity began to decline. By the 1960s, the city was beset with the economic and social problems common to many urban centers at the time. With an economy entirely dependent on tourists who were now shunning the decaying resort, the city reached rock bottom.

In 1976, New Jersey voters approved a referendum legalizing gambling in Atlantic City, but not elsewhere in the state. While many critics questioned the wisdom of using gambling as a tool for urban development, many others were convinced casinos would provide the resources needed to rebuild the city. By 1988, a dozen casinos were open and the number of annual visitors had grown from 700,000 in 1978, to over 33 million.

A long-anticipated second wave of development is now underway. The Borgata – the first new casino to be built since 1990 – opened in 2003. The prospect of increased competition in the gaming market, as well as the success of the Atlantic City Convention Center, have been catalysts for the development of other projects. Atlantic City is now home to New Jersey’s first wind farm. The Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm consists of five 1.5 megawatt turbine towers, each almost 400 feet (120 meters) high.

Today, Atlantic City still offers visitors a wide range of attractions, proving itself as a town that is”Always Turned On.”

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Historical data referenced from the Atlantic City Free Public Library

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