Monday, September 7, 2015

Highlights of Atlantic City and the Trolley Tour

Atlantic City has different meanings to different people past and future.

My most vivid recollections of the past were of course the diving horse on Steel Pier. I was scared to death to trek out there on that wooden boardwalk and then to climb higher in the stands to see miraculously appear even higher above our heads, a horse and then a lady.  She would mount the horse, the gate would open up and they both jumped. The horror and magnificence of it all. I am pretty sure that wooden structure I was sitting upon swayed too and I swore I was in international waters at least 3 miles out but these are the recollections of a 8 maybe 9 years old and there could be a slight exaggeration. My older brother was on the Ed Hurst show at least once, I remember standing around the perimeter watching him dance. I also recall seeing the Odd Couple movie and Yours, Mine and Ours with Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda on the big screen inside one of the theaters. My father had to occupy my second brother and I while Jack was busting a move on the dance floor. Also as luck had it, I got to see the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Four Seasons all perform live on other visits.  Rock and roll gave me some of my favorite songs but Motown will live forever in the hearts and souls of all those who had the pleasure of growing up with it. I don't really get the whole rap music thing and it could just be generational but if a DJ puts on a Motown tune, look out, here come the classics right to the dance floor.  We start moving things we didn't even know we still had and we smile about it. I can only remember going to Atlantic City maybe a total of 5 times but there was always an excitement and anticipation about what I may see this time. I passed the Diving Bell on the way out to sea but never did I have a desire to go down in it.  I never saw those people who did venture down in it, come back!

Fast forward approximately 20 years or so and I found myself back in AC. It was a bus trip arranged by the Roaring 20's crowd (most of us were in our twenties at the time) of MAB Paints. I can't remember the exact cost of the entire trip but I remember a Prime Rib dinner was included and $20 in gambling money. Red meat and me have never gotten along so it was a gamble and I lost.  I did get to see just about every bathroom in every casino along the boardwalk.  We did manage to do a little gambling at the slot machines and that 20 bucks was gone in about 20 seconds.  I swear it sucked the quarters right out of my hand almost instantaneously. I didn't find that to be so much fun, so Jenny, Lisa and I went for a cup of tea.  It cost $5, I was appalled. A discovery had been made, professional gambler will never make a line item on my resume. The rest of the crowd seemed to have a blast and many were blasted and LOUD on the way home, boasting about their winnings. Maybe I was just a sore loser. I do remember going into the Playboy casino which did not last very long in Atlantic City but we were there and so were the Cottontails and bow ties.

I am a fan of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, so when my cousin Maureen told me about a trolley tour based on that time period in Atlantic City, I became intrigued. Disclaimer and disclosure, these tours are for entertainment and I always try and reference all my information from a second source, some of the information I present can not be confirmed but it makes for a great story to weave Atlantic City in a trolley tour through history. All aboard.

Boardwalk Empire was loosely based on the political and crime boss of Atlantic City. Enoch, "Nucky" Johnson had his hand on the pulse of the World's Playground for 30 years during Prohibition a peak time in Atlantic City.  As anyone will tell you there is television and there is truth. A consensus is Nucky never killed anyone but lives were lost and crime ran rapid. Many notorious characters, gazed upon the sights in Atlantic City.

Nucky Johnson aka Nucky Thompson on the fictitious Boardwalk Empire series lived in a suite of rooms on the ninth floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel still standing beachfront in Atlantic City but it is now known at the Ritz Condominiums.

Fact or fiction, we were also told that Nucky had a house at Gardners Basin next door to Al Capone. Nucky on the right and Al on the left. The openings at the back of both homes could have been used to bring shipments of booze right into these homes.

The Convention Hall now known as Boardwalk Hall was built on land acquired by Mayor Edward Bader and built under the direction of Enoch Johnson. The hall, designed by the architectural firm Lockwood Greene. Construction began in 1926 an was completed in 1929. It was the largest venue at the time with unobstructed seats. As with many buildings designed by Lockwood and Greene, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.  Boardwalk Hall contains the world's largest musical instrument, a pipe organ. The Democratic National Convention to nominate LBJ occurred here in 1964 and week later the Beatles played to a sold out, I am wagering screaming crowd in 1964.

Yes we have a  Lockwood Greene, building in Philadelphia, Dobson Mills on Ridge Avenue (NRHP 1988).
Dobson Mills a view from Laurel Hill Cemetery another NRHP.
There are 5 original big hotels still standing in Atlantic City including the Ritz, they include the Claridge, the Madison, Dennis (Bally) and Chalfont- Haddon Hall (Resorts)

The Claridge Hotel is a historic hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that opened in 1930.

Madison Hotel in the center was built in 1929 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 20, 1984.

Dennis Tower opened in 1921 and is now part of Bally's.  Bally's is one of the largest hotels on the boardwalk with nearly 2,000 rooms. It is famous for its address of "Park Place and the Boardwalk", It sounds like Monopoly nirvana to me.

The Dennis
The Resorts site was originally occupied by two three-story wooden Quaker rooming houses, The Chalfonte House and The Haddon House. The Chalfont was a sanatorium, Army, hospital and a hotel through its history. It was demolished in 1980 to make room for a parking lot for Resorts International.  The current Haddon Hall was converted to Resorts International. Resorts has the first slot machine on display behind glass.

Caesars is one of the entrances to the 2.5 mile underground tunnel that was in existence during prohibition.  It is now used to bring celebrities and VIP's into the casinos.

There are many churches throughout Atlantic City so if you gambled away the rent money there are plenty of places to pray for forgiveness and mercy before to go home and explain it to the wife. I do not mean to make light of a very serious problem a gambling addiction can be.

Church of the Ascension is a historic church building at 1601 Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States It was built in 1893 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Lindley Johnson was the architect. Johnson worked in the office of Frank Furness and is said to have designed one of the buildings of the Princeton Club on Locust Street in Philadelphia.  Why yes, I do have a picture.  I could never figure out which one Furness did.  He did the interior one according to Wikipedia.

Former Princeton Club on Locust Street (I just happen to be a closet Furness fan)

St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church is a Roman Catholic historic church at 1409 Pacific Avenue in Atlantic City, Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States. It was built in 1905 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. Edwin Forrest Durang was the architect who specialized in ecclesiastical and theatrical design. H designed many of the interior furnishings for the Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. He contributed to the interior of the Academy of Music, 1854. He designed Roman Catholic High School for Boys (1890), Broad and Vine Streets, in Philadelphia, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, completed 1882, in Media, Pennsylvania, and Saint Thomas of Villanova Church and Augustinian Monastery, Villanova to name a few.  I know I have a picture of Villanova somewhere.  I love that church and I can see similarities. Click on the link under Edwin Durang to see a complete list. John McShane also is named as architect, his company resume includes more than one hundred buildings in the Washington, D.C. area. Most notably, the company built or was the prime contractor for a number of landmark structures including The Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Library of Congress annex, Washington National Airport, and the 1949–52 reconstruction of the White House. Of his many construction projects, McShain also built the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York. He also acquired the Barclay Hotel on Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square and became part owner of the "Skyscraper By The Sea", the 400-room Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Small world. According to, St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church provides a food pantry.

Price Memorial Zion A. M. E was organized and incorporated in November, 1880. It is the oldest Black congregation in the Atlantic City area.

The Asbury United Methodist Church had its beginning in a class meeting in the fall of 1885. Check on the website for a more complete history of the church. According to, Asbury United Methodist Church provides a food pantry.

In front of the First Presbyterian Church is a marker for Sister Jean Webster. Her story begins like this.. Over 25 years ago, casino chef Jean Webster saw a man searching for food in a garbage can on an Atlantic City street. With $5 in her pocket she bought him a meal at a fast food place and invited him to eat at her home the next day. Soon, others followed him back to her house, and she fed all of them. Jean's kitchen grew and moved to the First Presbyterian Church at Pacific and Pennsylvania Avenues were it went on to serve as many as 500 meals to the needy each day. She was often referred to by others as the "Mother Theresa of Atlantic City."You can read the rest of plague at the Atlantic City Free Library website.

According to our tour director there are 4 shelters in Atlantic City and Donald Trump helps to support some of them. I don't want to be the first female to say something nice about the Donald but if this is true, he ain't all that bad. There I said it.

The trolley tour was a Roaring 20's tour and there were many more properties included but I don't want to give them all away.  I will wrap it up with the Irish Pub formerly the Elwood Hotel where we had lunch and other speakeasies of that era.   Walk through the doors of the Irish Pub and be transported back to the days of old.  It is a classic and the food is great! I got the corn beef sandwich.

This sofa is said to be a favorite spot to a frequent visitor and close friend to the owners, Joe DiMaggio sat here.

I have not gotten inside the Knife and Fork Inn yet but I plan on it.  It opened in 1912 and is known to have held many a clandestine meeting for the movers and shakers of Atlantic City. Rumor has it that is also was a favorite place for the Feds to raid back in the bootleg days. The Nucky is on the lunch menu, Bacon, Caramelized Onion, Cheddar Cheese and Fried Egg. It was one of Enoch "Nucky" Johnson's favorite places to eat. According to an article I will reference found at you will want to request a booth on the second floor and order an Aviation. The Knife and Fork is at the base of Route 322, the Black Horse Pike in Atlantic City. I have made a mental note, 2nd floor, booth, aviator.

Grossman's Kosher Hotel in the Atlantic City now known as Chelsea Pub and Inn was once a popular speakeasy. The term speakeasy came from the time of Prohibition and were referred to speaking quietly about a place that sold liquor in public, or when inside it, not to alert the police or neighbors and ruin anyone's good time.

Build it and they will come but you can't tear down lives and community without cost. Eventually somebody has to pay. It's a gamble.


  1. Dear Mary Ann,

    I am a writer at, and this month we are doing a package on New Jersey. We're doing a story on the Knife and Fork Inn, and in my research I found the photo you posted of it here. Would you be able to grant me permission to post the photo in our story? I will include a link to your website and give you (or the photographer) full credit for the image.

    Thank you,

    Katie Whittaker

    1. Yes Katie, you have permission to use my photograph, thanks for asking and linking my blog to it. Can you send me a link to the article when you publish?

  2. Of course, we'd be happy to do that! Thank you.