Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Building of the Atlantic City Boardwalk

As hotels and boardinghouses (rented out rooms in people's houses or giant no-frills hotels) sprung up in Atlantic City, the owners claimed about people trudging sand through their lobbies and rooms. Imagine having a carpet accumulate sand and not having a vacuum cleaner! Of course this has been a problem for full-time residents, but they would have incentive to brush the sand off outside, so as to not have to deal with sand inside later on. Further, train operators had the same problem of customers dragging sand into the rail cars.

The solution was to build a boardwalk, where people could walk on after the beach and the sand could fall off naturally. More importantly, a boardwalk would actually prevent visitors from walking on the beach, since people generally prefer being sand-free.
The first boardwalk, constructed in the 1870s, was simply wooden boards laid atop the sand. When local politicians saw how much people enjoyed the boardwalk concept and its commercial potential, an elevated structure was constructed. In time, the boardwalk became a major component of Atlantic City life. Tourists bought played games, purchased trinkets, as well as food and drink. The low unit price of entertainment meant people of modest means were welcome.

A commercial boardwalk was unique to Atlantic City at the time. Eventually, the concept was extended out to piers, jutting out into the ocean and giving patrons a unique sense of hovering over the water. It was such a profitable venture, that one of the pier magnates, John Young, constructed a mansion that sat at the end of the pier. Eventually it washed into the ocean, but the boardwalk of Atlantic City remains strong to this day.

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