See old Atlantic City hotels & beaches back when New Jersey was a beautiful vacation destination 100 years ago

Why old Atlantic City was a beautiful popular vacation destination 1900s

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These idyllic scenes from old Atlantic City, New Jersey, show some of the fancy old hotels, beautiful boardwalks, busy beaches and fashionable crowds — all part of the reason the city (and the whole Jersey Shore of yore) used to be one of the east coast’s top vacation destinations.

Atlantic City: The world’s greatest resort (1911)

From “Atlantic City, New Jersey, the World’s Greatest Resort,” by the Atlantic City Publicity Bureau (1911)

ATLANTIC CITY is the world’s premier pleasure and health resort. Taken all the year round, it has no equal anywhere.

Some European resorts rival it for a limited summer or winter season, but none compares in popularity, comfort, pleasure and health-giving qualities the four seasons through.

On an island ten miles in length and less than a mile in width, extending nearly due east and west, separated from the mainland by seven miles of salt bays and meadows, Atlantic City faces the South.

The prevailing Southwest breeze of summer comes to it cooled by the ocean, while in winter, its southern exposure and proximity to the Gulf Stream and the protection of the Jersey pine belt ensure an equable climate several degrees warmer than the nearby cities of New York and Philadelphia.

Old Atlantic City at the turn of the century (3)

Atlantic City is a city of hotels, cottages and shops. Its sole business is to give comfort, health and pleasure to the people who come from all over the World.

On every day of the year, guests are accommodated with the comfort and elegance of the best metropolitan hotels, as well as the most varied facilities for recreation and amusement.

The prominent hotels possess every modern convenience and luxury. They are handsome structures built for all-the-year service. Some have cost several millions of dollars.

Along the boardwalk, Atlantic City hotels in the background (around 1905)
Along the boardwalk, Atlantic City hotels in the background (around 1905)

The newer ones represent the latest ideas in fireproof construction. Many of the hotels have their own water supply from artesian wells 840 feet deep. All have complete electric and refrigerating plants.

Long-distance telephones are to be found in the bedrooms of the largest houses. Sun Parlors are a feature of almost every hotel.

The public and private bathrooms are in most cases supplied with hot and cold sea water, as well as hot and cold fresh water, enabling guests to secure the benefits of sea water in their own apartments without reference to either time or tide.

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Ocean City trolley and buildings on the old Jersey Shore (1900s)

The moderate and low-priced houses supply accommodations of superior excellence for the price charged. Many of them are open all the year around.

Visitors find that the most distinctive feature of Atlantic City is the Boardwalk. It now extends eight miles along the Beach, with a practically unobstructed ocean view.

Jersey Shore’s Atlantic City Boardwalk map from 1911

Old Atlantic City map (1911)

In its central portion, it is sixty feet wide; throughout much of its length it is forty, and at no point is it less than twenty feet wide.

It is a substantial structure erected from ten to fifteen feet above the strand upon massive piling at a cost of half a million dollars.

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Old Atlantic City at the turn of the century (2)

It is brilliantly lighted every evening in the year by many thousands of incandescent electric lamps. It is well patronized at all times, but in July, August and September, it is thronged.

In February, March and April, a multitude from all parts of the world finds on the Boardwalk an early spring and relief from the snow and slush of the cities. May and October are every year becoming more popular.

Many important National Conventions meet in Atlantic City in June.

Sixteenth Convention, Anti-Saloon League of America at Atlantic City (1915)
Sixteenth Convention, Anti-Saloon League of America at Atlantic City (1915)

The Easter Sunday Parade is made up of more than one hundred thousand people dressed in the newest styles, and is a social pageant of surpassing interest not to be found in any other part of the World.

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Rolling chairs let people glide through old Atlantic City

Next to the ocean view and the promenaders, the shops and the Rolling Chairs are the prominent features of the Boardwalk.

Visitors, regardless of age, health and sex are patrons of these chairs, which are open for the bright warm days in the spring and autumn, and shaded for the summer season, while for convalescents they are enclosed in glass, so that at no time is one obliged to forego his daily rides.

The chair of the invalid guest may be rolled from his room into the elevator and out upon the Walk.

Along the boardwalk, Atlantic City with hotels in the background (around 1905) (2)
Old Atlantic city hotels and the wooden boardwalk

Along the land side of the Boardwalk, the shops not only act as a shelter from the occasional north winds, but are one of its chief charms. Armenia and Syria, China and Japan, Hawaii and Mexico, Egypt and Turkey, India and Persia, Italy and Scandinavia, Paris and London, are each represented by one or more shops exclusively devoted to its rarest importations.

In addition to these are as many more in which are displayed the best creations of American artisans. The shop windows and the Auction Sales attract the connoisseur and entertain the stroller.

In addition to the Boardwalk shops, there are many excellent stores of a general character in the center of the city for the visitor and resident.

The Boardwalk parade, Atlantic City (around 1905)

Social events, concerts, art & casino gambling popular

The Casino, facing the Boardwalk, and a City Park, is a recognized center of social life. Every morning and evening during autumn, winter and spring, concerts are given by a metropolitan orchestra.

Extending seaward from the Boardwalk are five great ocean piers — in all the world, the greatest series of piers devoted exclusively to recreation.

Nowhere will builders and engineers find more interesting examples of steel and concrete work than in these famous structures.

Concerts by noted bands, theatres, net hauls, bowling and other amusements, interesting in themselves, have added zest when enjoyed over the ocean.

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Old Atlantic City casino around 1900
Old Atlantic City casino around 1900

Atlantic City enjoys the premier production of many leading plays because of the excellence of its theatres and the cosmopolitan character of its audiences.

Along the Boardwalk are play-houses, auction sales and many other forms of entertainment. Anyone can find endless diversion in Atlantic City.

The saunterer is led on by the bracing air and the resiliency of the Boardwalk, the allurements of the Ocean, the shops, the amusements and the joys of mingling with the pleasure seekers, to walk, until he finally returns with keen appetite and mind refreshed.

Old Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore around 1911 (3)

The high-grade restaurants on the Boardwalk are not excelled anywhere in service. They cater all the year round in the most satisfactory manner to theatre parties and those who desire to dine out.

The Boardwalk of Atlantic City is THE PROMENADE of America.

Play in the ocean along the Jersey Shore beaches

The Bathing Beach is the most perfect on the Atlantic Coast. Fifty thousand bathers are often seen in the surf at one time in the summer months.

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Life on the ocean wave, Atlantic City - early 1900s

For the protection of this multitude, Atlantic City maintains a municipal beach patrol of sixty-four trained men, equipped with boats and other apparatus and under the direction of an experienced surgeon.

There is but little demand for their assistance, for the beach shelves off very gradually and there are no dangerous holes or cross currents. Life lines are unnecessary.

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Boating, sailing, and yachting

The smooth bays and thoroughfares lying between Absecon Island and the Mainland are ideal for small sail and power boats, and for sailing and crabbing, while in a few minutes the larger yachts can find unlimited opportunity on the Ocean.

Vintage Jersey Shore beach scenes from the early 1900s (1)

The various Yacht Clubs are the headquarters throughout the year for many private craft owned by visitors and residents.

At the Inlet Wharf, a yachting fleet, staunchly built and ably manned, at all seasons accommodates the public either individually or in parties at moderate prices.

The Absecon Lighthouse, the life-saving drills by the United States Coast Guards, and the maneuvers of the fishing and oyster fleets are other interesting marine features. 

New Jersey is famous among automobilists for its good roads, none of which are more used by them than those which lead from New York and Philadelphia to the splendid Boulevard across the meadows to Atlantic City.

Old Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore around 1911 (2)

Old Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore around 1911 (1)

The garage accommodations in Atlantic City are of unusual excellence. The paved streets, the Speedway and the Boulevard afford ample opportunity for riding and driving.

Healthy living in old Atlantic City

As a place for convalescents, Atlantic City has no equal. The pure salt air, miles of Boardwalk along the water’s edge, rides in the rolling chairs, and good hotels, many of which have their special diet-kitchen where tempting dishes are prepared especially for individual needs, are some of the features that help to make recovery rapid and pleasant.

Excellent doctors of all schools, many of them specialists, are residents. The Atlantic City Hospital is modern and well-equipped.

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Vintage Jersey Shore beach scenes from the early 1900s (2)

The unique location, the remarkable climatic conditions, the magnificent hotels, the convenient cottages, the superior train service, the unrivaled and interesting Boardwalk, the perfect bathing beach, and many other attractions mentioned have transformed a barren waste of sand dunes, dotted with a few gunning and fishing shacks in 1854, into the greatest pleasure and health resort in any country in the world.


Happy and beautiful (1903)

Atlantic City, N.J. from Lawrence Captive Airship, 800 feet above boardwalk (1909)

Atlantic City, N.J. from Lawrence Captive Airship, 800 feet above boardwalk, 1909

Hotel St. Charles, Atlantic City, New Jersey (1880-1890)

Hotel St. Charles, Atlantic City, New Jersey 1880-1890

Savoy Hotel in old Atlantic City during the early 1900s

Savoy Hotel, Atlantic City in the early 1900s

Hotel Windsor – Old Atlantic City (1911)

Hotel Windsor - Old Atlantic City (1911)

The old Chalfonte Hotel, Atlantic City

Hotel Chalfonte - Old Atlantic City (1911)

Hotel Chelsea

Hotel Chelsea - Old Atlantic City (1911)

Hotel Traymore

Hotel Traymore - Old Atlantic City (1911)

Atlantic City: Crowds seek shore for a day (1901)

The Philadelphia Inquirer (Pennsylvania) August 5, 1901

Sunday excursionists fill Atlantic City and hotel men look happy — bright prospects for a good month

If the crowd that fills the boardwalk this first Sunday in August is any criterion for the rest of the month, hotel keepers trill have every reason to look happy.

Early in the morning, the big excursion trains came rolling in by sections, and by 10 o’clock the boardwalk was wearing a crowded complexion.

By 11 o’clock, the regulars had finished their breakfasts and were out or the regulation Sunday morning stroll. Then the boardwalk was nothing short of packed.

These folks who romp to spend Sunday by the sea are well worth watching. Every type and class is represented. The boardwalk is certainly a great leveler. The laboring man and the head of the corporation meet on a common plane.

All burdens are light on the beach, Atlantic City, New Jersey (1906)

An American institution

Atlantic city’s boardwalk is the most thoroughly American institution in the world. With the arrival of the bathing hour, everyone exchanged their summer costumes for something much more abbreviated and plunged into a heavy surf that knocked them down again and again only to come up laughing and sputtering and to plunge in again.

It was unquestionably the biggest crowd that had taken advantage of the bathing hour this season. The beach was black with them — or, more strictly speaking, blue, pink, yellow and red, according to the costumes worn by the bathers.

Late in the afternoon, they were all back again on the boardwalk telling each other of the terrible adventures with jellyfish or of the narrow escapes from drowning that occur in about two feet of water.

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Busy old Virginia Avenue in Atlantic City, New Jersey – Colorized (1905)

Virginia Avenue Atlantic City 1905-Colorized

Steeplechase Pier, Atlantic City (1905)

Steeplechase Pier, Atlantic City (1905)

Old Jersey Shore beach scenes from the early 1900s

The Rudolf, Atlantic City (1905)

Vintage Jersey Shore beach scenes from the early 1900s (3)

Vintage Jersey Shore beach scenes from the early 1900s (4)

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A modern pyramid on the sand, Atlantic City (1903)

A modern pyramid on the sand, Atlantic City (1903)

New Jersey days long ago, in the good old summertime – Colorized photo (1905)

In the good old summertime 1905-Colorized

Old Atlantic City at the turn of the century: Steeplechase pier (Colorized)

Old Atlantic City at the turn of the century 1-Colorized

The Boardwalk parade, Atlantic City (around 1905) (2)


On the beach at Atlantic City (around 1904)

On the beach at Atlantic City (around 1904) (1)

On the beach at Atlantic City (around 1904) (2)

On the beach at Atlantic City (around 1904) (3)

Jersey Shore, 1915-style

100 years ago, people could have never possibly imagined the role spray tanner, hot tubs and bikini tops would eventually play in popularizing that quaint place they would go to be beside the seaside.

Sights and scenes snapped on the boardwalk during a Sunday visit to the Jersey Shore

Jersey Shore, 1915-style
Captions: View of boardwalk from hotel top. This picture was taken yesterday from the Traymore looking toward the million-dollar pier. / Out for a morning stroll / Riding on the beach is popular / A snapshot up a stairway / Side-laced shoes and zebra stockings were noted / Striped skirts show flowing lines

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Comments on this story

2 Responses

  1. AC was very racist back then as well as other places. But G’D changed that too. And you can bet He’s going to change many other things as well as a matter of fact He’s already started. Even if you won’t see.

  2. My mother (who grew up in Maryland) used to talk about going to AC in the 1940s and how exciting it was — back then it was the go-to vacation destination. Today, other beach towns along the Jersey shore are more popular, and people don’t go to AC unless they want to patronize the casinos. And they certainly don’t wear their finest, fanciest clothes!!

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