Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Old Postcard Wednesday--Hotel Traymore, Atlantic City, NJ

I have decided that my grandparents lived in Atlantic City at an intoxicating time in the city's history. Yesterday I posted a photo of them taken at the Boardwalk in 1916 when my uncles were boys and my mother was a toddler. The new Traymore Hotel had just been completed the year before, their family was happy in a house on the sand, my grandfather was doing well in insurance, and one of his daughters from his marriage with his first (deceased) wife was by then a young woman who had found the love of her life right there in Atlantic City. Later the family moved, leaving that older daughter with her new husband and their young daughter living contently in the city with the famous Boardwalk.

As this postcard appears to show the new concrete structure, but the clothing styles are vintage, I imagine that my grandmother collected it while they lived there.






An Atlantic City Weekly article (titled Kaboom!) about the implosion of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and later in Atlantic City notes the following information about the end of the Traymore Hotel:
. . . But a building implosion in Atlantic City is about as rare as a $5 blackjack table on a Saturday night. Only two buildings here have been felled in that manner.

In April and May 1972, with no fireworks and only a few hundred spectators, the aging, stately and massive Traymore Hotel, which sat on the empty Boardwalk lot adjacent to the Sands, underwent its trial by fire in a series of three shots spread out over several weeks.

Contrary to modern lore, the Traymore wasn’t blown up in anticipation of casinos. It was an old building and very expensive to maintain, and it came down two years before the first statewide gaming referendum, in which voters shot down casinos for the entire state. (It was a 1976 referendum, which confined gambling to Atlantic City, which was successful.) . . .

Click here to see a postcard featuring the Traymore Hotel with a much later generation of sunbathers on the sand, probably a few years before its demolition.


But what of The Traymore Hotel's beginning, its heyday?

One of the classic Atlantic City Boardwalk hotels, the Traymore was also one of the earliest. Like most other hotels, it went through several incarnations, and its history parallels that of the resort's hotel industry. The Traymore began in 1879 as a beachfront, 10-room wooden cottage at Illinois Ave. and the Boardwalk. Originally a rooming house, the Traymore was named in honor of its steadiest customer, "Uncle Al" Harvey. Harvey incessantly waxed poetic over his Maryland estate, reportedly named after his Irish hometown. To this day, there is a Traymore Lane in Bowie, Maryland. The first Traymore "hotel" was more of a bath house than a full-service hotel, and it was, evidently, quite flimsy: on January 10, 1884, a fierce winter storm savaged the Boardwalk and reduced the Traymore to splinters, while the adjacent Park Parlors was left intact. The Traymore was quickly rebuilt and was continually enlarged until, in 1898, it became the city's largest hotel, with 450 rooms. . . .

. . . The Traymore continued to grow. In 1906 owner Daniel White hired the firm of Price and McLanahan to construct a new tower that brought the hotel up to the Boardwalk. During the summer of 1914, White contracted with Price and McLanahan to replace the existing wooden-frame Traymore with a massive concrete structure that would rival the Marlborough-Blenheim, which William Price had built across Park Place for White's cousin Josiah. Unlike later casino hotels that simply plunked down massive towers without regard to the surrounding environs, Price's Traymore, which was built directly behind the 1906 tower, was designed to take advantage of its ocean views: hotel wings jutted out further from the central tower toward Pacific Avenue, thus affording more guests ocean views. Commencing just after Labor Day, construction crews worked non-stop to erect the new Traymore in time for the 1915 season, and they were successful. Built with tan brick and capped by yellow-tiled domes, the Traymore instantly became the city's architectural showpiece when it opened in June 1915. . . .



. . . the Traymore prospered, and was described in 1924 as "the Taj Mahal of Atlantic City," decades before Donald Trump opened a casino resort with that name. But as Atlantic City declined in the 1960s, the Traymore did as well. By the early 1970s, the hotel was defunct and was slated for demolition, despite a campaign to save this architectural landmark. . . .
- from an article written for Casino Connection by David G. Schwartz


The New York Public Library has a Digital Gallery that includes a postcard with a view of the Traymore Hotel in 1908-1909, when the architecture was still the original wooden-frame building. Once there you can scroll forward/backward through a series of really fine vintage photos of Atlantic City, the Boardwalk and the Traymore Hotel (including a night scene that I wish I could jump right into for just one evening).

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11 comments:

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

This building reminded me of the big, grandiose buildings you find near the seafront in the UK - Blackpool or Brighton perhaps?

You can almost imagine the victorians coming out in their striped bathing costumes and dipping a nervous toe in the waters xx

Darlene said...

I wonder how many rooms that hotel held. It was a huge building and I can see the reason for it's demise.

Nontheless, it makes me rather sad that we Americans demolish so many landmarks while the Europeans have buildings centuries old.

Lydia, I apologize for confusing you with your mother in the previous post. What was I thinking? - I wasn't.

Yolanda said...

Thanks for the encouragement and I love these old postcards.Thanks for being my friend.

Buddha said...

Such a pitty they did not save the building.
I think it had a lot of personality.

Lydia said...

@Pixies- I've seen photos of what you described. Do you think the UK will preserve the ones there?

@Darlene- I hope to visit Europe one day to see buildings like the ones you mentioned. :) It is quite alright about the mix-up; I got a kick out of it.

@Yolanda- It's great to have you here and you're quite welcome, my friend. :)

@Buddha- I agree. For a structure made of concrete I thought it had a real warmth to it.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Hi Lydia - i'd like to think that we would preserve some of these old buildings, but we're a bit hit and miss.

The rules on preservation are really odd here - like there's an old college near my home which is "protected" as a listed building - however listing only affects the frontage, so you can practically gut the interiors and replace it so long as it looks the same from the street. Very odd.

Also - if you want to take a look at something that has been sadly lost do a search for Brighton West Pier - it was shut down in the 70s and neglected. It used to have a Victorian arch over it, but due to the neglect it collapsed a few years back and the remains have now been gutted by fire. Last i heard they were going to tear the frame down. What a loss.

dmarks said...

I am way behind on my postcard-related posts (and comments) due to travel this week. I have very few postcards of New Jersey, but one happens to be a front view of the Traymore.

Margo said...

So many grand hotels were razed. The seventies were definitely not good to history! Fascinating post!

Lydia said...

@Pixies- I guess every country has some strange rules regarding preservation, but, as Margo says below, it does seem that the 1970s were an especially mean time for historic structures. :) The Victorian arch over the pier sounds like a dream....

@dmarks- I've enjoyed your travel posts. It's interesting that you have a postcard of the Traymore Hotel also. Is it this era, or possibly earlier before the concrete structure was built?

@Margo- You're right about the seventies! I hadn't thought of it in those terms until your comment but, absolutely, it was a decade of purge!

Marie Reed said...

I have missed so much! Your new blog look is so bright and cheery!I am sorta kinda in the blogging saddle again. My fever won't seem to go away but I can at least get up and smile a bit... jeez.. I sound like a geezer!

Lydia said...

@Marie Reed- I'm glad you like the new look. And I am truly sorry that this bug has decided to stick around with you this long. Get well soon! (((((hug)))))

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