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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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The Big Hotels: 1915

The Big Hotels: 1915

Atlantic City, N.J., ca. 1915. "Bathing in front of the big hotels -- Traymore [right] and Marlborough-Blenheim." Detroit Publishing glass negative. View full size.

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Ping Pong, Pilotis and Genesis

From the enlargement emerge tantalizing details of some largely forgotten characteristics of the sandy playground.

A few doors left of Brady's Baths sits a concession stand with a sign for "Japanese Ping Pong." Not table tennis, but a typical arcade game of the era. It seems to have been a flatter, shorter-lived cousin to skee-ball. A.T. Hayashi appears in a 1920 directory as the proprietor, also operating one of the more numerous and better documented Japanese bric-a-brac shops.

"Piloti" is a bit of insider jargon that architectural critics used to describe each of the distinctive boardwalk-end columns on the Blenheim section of the Marlborough-Blenheim. The four-sided pylons were ecstatic expressions of architect William L. Price's confidence in the great things that can be done with reinforced concrete. Functional, too: the hotel was built with a longer tourist season in mind, and great fireplaces sent smoke up the chimneys within each pylon. The Historic American Buildings Survey has photos.

The hard-to-read, double-sided electric sign to the left of the Blenheim is set back from the boardwalk. Each side displays "Creation of the World." Don't know if the exhibit toured, but it sounds like a serious affair. Presumably the sign in our 1915 photo refers to the same show described in a booster magazine, The Suburbanite. From what looks to be the poorly edited September 1908 issue:

The greatest attraction near Young's Million-Dollar Pier, is the Scenographic illustration of "The Creation of the World," showing he (sic) evolution of the Universe emerging from Chaos, no (sic) birth of the World, and the Creation of man.

The Creation of the World occupies a large steel and concrete building on the boardwalk. The Creation of the World is a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar production, the largest Scenograph ever produced, it is far ahead of anything of this nature given in any other place.

[Imperfectly scanned, not poorly edited. - Dave]

How many went down with heatstroke?

I am always amazed at these beach photos. It is just beyond me to even imagine what it would be like to spend the day at the beach in a full suit, starched collar, tie and leather shoes. And all that before modern breathable lightweight fabrics.

I do not even want to try and think what it must have been like for the ladies in those dresses.

Helmar Heights

That is quite the cigarette billboard. The spare construction of that is really interesting and kind of beautiful. I'd love to see one of those old signs up close. The elaborate edges make it look like the whole thing was somehow rubber stamped on the photo itself. Neat.

Aside from that, I love these old beach pictures. It's a little difficult to get past the bathing costumes, but once you do, it's amazing how similar it looks to a modern beach scene--splashing, talking, sunbathing (and the few protecting themselves from the sun). I guess people have always behaved in similar ways in sand and surf.

Over-the-top Art Nouveau-ish hotel

What grand architecture, in a Moorish style, right on the beach.

Helmar Smokes

I never heard of them, but from the looks of their ad, they were popular. Probably a nickel a pack. And those suits and dresses at the beach just crack me up. Such different times.


I really love old beach photos. They really makes me feel I'm right there. Maybe I was born in the wrong age. BTW, boys didn't go to the beach to watch girls, I guess.

Just before ka-boom-boom

Just before they demolished the Traymore, my parents decided that we would go for a vacation and stay in the grand old hotel because it had once been such a fine place of its day. (Or maybe the management were renting the rooms at half price, since the end was near, and my father covered up his cheapness with the story of how we had to see that bit of history before it was gone).

By that time it was rather a dump. You didn't get a shower in your room. It was down at the end of the hall, and you had to wait your turn in that hallway.

What passed for luxury in the Traymore's time was really primitive.
It looked far better from the outside than the inside.

Gotta Ask

Anyone know or remeber why the M-B hotel has those two vertical elements? What were they for?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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