What Atlantic City looked like in the 1960s

During the 1960s, Atlantic City was at the height of its popularity as a tourist destination. The city’s famous boardwalk was lined with shops, restaurants, and arcades and was a popular spot for strolling and people-watching. The beach was also a major draw, with miles of sandy shoreline and a bustling beach scene.

In terms of entertainment, Atlantic City had various options for visitors. There were many casinos, such as the famous Tropicana and the Steel Pier amusement park, which featured rides, attractions, live music and comedy venues. The city also hosted several major events, including the Miss America pageant, which was held in Atlantic City from 1921 to 2005.

Atlantic City’s economy during the 1960s depended heavily on tourism and gambling. Many of the casinos and hotels were owned by organized crime figures, who controlled much of the city’s vice activities, such as illegal gambling, prostitution, and drug trafficking. This led to a reputation for corruption and lawlessness, which persisted even as efforts were made to clean up the city’s image.

Despite the problems with organized crime and vice, many people flocked to Atlantic City in the 1960s to take advantage of the city’s many attractions and to gamble. The city’s population was around 65,000 during this time, and it was a popular spot for conventions and significant events. However, over the following decades, the city’s popularity waned as newer, more glamorous destinations like Las Vegas and the Caribbean emerged, and Atlantic City struggled to compete.

#1 Atlantic City with the ‘Chalfonte-Haddon Hall’ hotel complex behind the famous boardwalk and the beach in the 1960s.

#3 Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk running past the former Marlborough Blenheim Hotel and other shops and attractions

#4 The grand Marlborough Blenheim Hotel that stood close to the Boardwalk. It was built in the early 1900s but was demolished in 1978. The site is now occupied by Bally’s Hotel and Casino

#5 The back of the Marlborough Blenheim Hotel. The Blenheim in the name is a nod to Blenheim Palace in England – the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill

#7 Margate Elephant, Atlantic Avenue and Decatur Street, 1960

#11 Atlantic City beach with the Haddon Hall Hotel (visible at right), Atlantic City, 1964

#16 The Beatles, news press conference ahead of Concert at the Convention Hall, Atlantic City, 1964

#18 On Ash Wednesday in 1962 a huge storm hit Atlantic City and parts of the Steel Pier were destroyed and lost to the sea

#19 It is estimated that the storm caused around $2million worth of damage to the Steel Pier

#20 The famous Boardwalk Hall pictured in 1962. Just two years later it was the venue for the Democratic National Convention where Lyndon B Johnson was formally nominated as the party’s presidential candidate

#21 The entrance to the Colony Resort and Motel. It was a new hotel to the area, having only opened in 1959. It stood on the same site as the once grand Brighton Hotel

#22 The owner of the original photos, Glen Fairweather, acquired the pictures by picking them up at various estate sales and auctions

#23 The inside of an unnamed Atlantic City hotel in 1962 where guests could retire to to watch TV

#24 The Boardwalk suffered extensive damage after the great Ash Wednesday storm in March 1962. It caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage across six states

#25 More storm damage along Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk. The storm was one of the most deadly in US history, claiming 40 lives

#28 At a swimming pool of a hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1962.

#31 President Johnsons visit to Atlantic City before elections, 1964.

#46 Democratic National Convention, General View, Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, 1964

#47 Walt Disney Television in 1964 Democratic Convention

#48 A shot showing an overview of the Atlantic City Boardwalk and the Steel Pier. On the pier, a huge ad can be seen for Fralinger’s salt water taffy – a sweet treat

#49 The famous Steel Pier, which opened in Atlantic City in 1898. By the 1960s it was one of the biggest concert venues in the area, playing host to Frank Sinatra and Diana Ross And The Supremes

#50 A snap showing one of the resorts in Atlantic City in 1962 with outdoor tables, chairs and sun loungers positioned ready for the guests

#51 A glamorous array of large cars in the parking lot of the Colony Motel in 1962

#52 With more and more people owning cars by 1962, hotels found guests were staying in Atlantic City for less time, instead preferring holidays with more destinations that they drove to

#53 By the 1960s, Atlantic City was beginning to see a decline in visitor numbers, with cheaper air travel diverting Americans to the likes of Orlando and Miami

#54 Many hotels had views out towards the beach. Casinos weren’t permitted to be built in Atlantic City until the 1970s

#55 As well as sunning themselves on the beach, holidaymakers heading to Atlantic City would soak up the rays around hotel pools

#56 Hotel workers are up early to clean a swimming pool before all the guests descend to swim and lie on the sun loungers

#57 One of the hotels believed to have been located on Kentucky Avenue, one of the major thoroughfares in Atlantic City

#58 An illuminated water fountain entertains guests outside one of Atlantic City’s hotels

#59 Despite the storm damage, Atlantic City was fully operational for visitors again just two days later

#60 A truck drives away from a small crane that had been placed at the end of a shore defence

#61 Sea defences that had been placed along the Atlantic City shoreline were damaged during the storm of 1962

#62 Construction of the Atlantic City Boardwalk began in 1870 – and it’s still enjoyed by visitors today

#63 How Atlantic City looks today. The Boardwalk and coastline is full of glitzy high rise hotels and casinos

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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    • Casinos didn’t cause the problems for AC. It was a mess long before they showed up in the late 70s. And it’s not like the poor people that live in AC are the ones gambling in the casinos causing their gambling problems. The biggest problem are the drugs, like any large city.

      The city is in better shape now then it has been in a long time. Companies are putting money into the city, new production studios and race tracks planned, hotels are constantly being renovated, they have the Outlets, there are hundreds of conventions and shows each year. Before the casinos, it was a dying city.

  1. My grandparents lived in Atlantic City from approximately 1972 through 1976, immediately before gambling passed, so we visited AC two or three times every summer. The city itself was clearly down on its luck, but the boardwalk was still busy and teeming with people during the summer. Lots of amusement rides, arcades, tons of cheesy gift and novelty stores, it was a lot of fun for a little kid. I remember that revolving space needle thing, the Steel Pier, the “diving horse”, the diving bell you could take to the bottom of the water by the pier, and a few of the old hotels, which were mostly abandoned by that time, but still standing.