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Atlantic City Bigger, First and Only By SHERRY HOFFMAN


ver since visionary entrepreneurs booted the Absegami Indians off the island and out of their swampy, mosquito-infested summer homes in the mid-19th Century, Atlantic City has found seemingly endless ways to put itself on the world stage. Originally developed as a restorative resort where the sickly could get well by filling their lungs with healthy ocean breezes, the original re-settlers quickly discovered there was even more money to be made by pandering to the healthy and wealthy. As a city grew out of fields of phragmites, so did ways of attracting the attention of the curious masses. In addition to hotels that offered guests three types of running water in which to bathe — hot, cold, and salt pumped right out of the ocean — clever promoters came up with a seemingly endless series of stunts, gimmicks and one-of-a-kinds, many of which led to lots of firsts, biggests, onlys, and world records. Here’s our look at just some of the things that made Atlantic City the world’s playground: Atlantic City probably never would have evolved into the destination resort it is today without its single biggest and most significant manmade attraction: the world’s first Boardwalk. If you consider the city a giant bicycle wheel, then the Boardwalk was the center out of which all spokes grew. The original wooden way was first laid down in 1870 and was merely a series of planks temporarily laid across the sand in the summer (and packed away in the winter). Its origin can be traced to a hotel owner and a grumpy train conductor. Their intention wasn’t to use the “board walk” as a home for commercial enterprises designed to separate tourists from their money. All they wanted to do was keep people from tracking the damned sand into the hotels and onto the trains, where it had to be swept away every day. Over the next 30 years, the Boardwalk — it’s a proper name because it’s technically considered an Atlantic City street — was widened, elevated, railings were added, the familiar herringbone board pattern emerged and businesses sprang up on both the land and beach sides. Soon, other seashore communities began adding boardwalks of their own — Wildwood, Ocean City, and Coney Island. The concept spread overseas, too; many a visiting British entertainer has said the Atlantic City Boardwalk reminds them of the one in Brighton, England. “Except you people have the ocean on the wrong side,” the late Davy Jones of the 1960s band The Monkees once quipped during an interview. 42

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In 1978, the Atlantic City Boardwalk added another first to its resume; it was where the first legal casino east of the Mississippi River would open — right on the world’s first board walk. In 1910, just seven years after the Wright Brothers flew the world’s first airplane on a North Carolina beach, a facility opened on Albany Avenue that offered a place where airplanes could land and take off from a runway and seaplanes could do the same from the bay waters that surrounded field. In 1919, the term “air-port” was first used to describe what was known then — and is still today — as Bader Field. Eventually, the hyphen was dropped and Bader Field became the first facility to use the term “airport.” The medical field can claim Atlantic City as a first, and not for what you might think — the incubator baby exhibit on the Boardwalk. No, that distinction went to Coney Island; Atlantic City — never one to allow another resort to have a monopoly on making money – merely capitalized on a sure bet when it copied the incubator baby display. But medicine can claim that the first surgery on broadcast television took place in Atlantic City in 1949. Operations performed at the Atlantic City Hospital (now AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center) were broadcast — in color, no less — to doctors attending the American Medical Association’s annual meeting at Convention Hall (now Boardwalk Hall) and were televised on stations in New York and Baltimore, where some viewers reportedly fainted when they watched the actual surgeries. Not all of Atlantic City’s firsts date back decades. In 1992, the rap group Detroit’s Most Wanted shot the first rap video ever filmed in a casino when it made “The Money Is Made” at Trump Taj Mahal. Atlantic City has seen more than its share of “biggest” and “largest” attractions and stunts, too. For instance, anyone who wanted to see the world’s largest typewriter could find it on the former Garden Pier. The Underwood typewriter was 1,728 times larger than standard size machines of its type. It was so big promoters would often have women sitting on the keys, and it remained a Boardwalk attraction until World War II, when it was scrapped for metal. One of the most stubbornly enduring attractions in Atlantic City since the early 1930s has been the largest organ in the world, the Midmer-Losh pipe organ in Boardwalk Hall. Although it was damaged by the Hurricane of 1944 and was never completely repaired, portions of the organ, which officially has 33,112 pipes, have been restored and it is mostly functional today. Efforts are underway to raise the millions

NJ Lifestyle Magazine Winter 2016