The Shelburne was one of Atlantic City’s earliest beachfront hotels. First opened in 1869 as a wooden frame building, the hotel soon grew in popularity when it became the closest lodging to nearby attractions Million Dollar Pier and Convention Hall. Several celebrities of the early 1900s who performed at Million Dollar Pier stayed at the Shelburne, including Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, and Ethel Barrymore. The Shelburne was a particular favorite of railroad magnate “Diamond Jim” Brady and diva Lillian Russell. The original frame Shelburne received a fireproof brick addition in 1922, and in 1926, the wooden structure was almost completely replaced by a $1.5 million, 12-story tower. A portion of the original frame Shelburne remained as the hotel’s dining room. The facility grew further in the 1950s, adding a ballroom, the Empress Motel on Pacific Avenue, and an ice skating rink. By the 1970s, however, declining tourism in Atlantic City had led the Shelburne to fall into disrepair. Only the first two floors were useable in 1978 when the entire building was closed. There were talks of building a Benihana Casino on the site, but no concrete plans developed. In 1984, the Shelburne was torn down, one of the last of Atlantic City’s grand hotels to disappear from the skyline. Bk.917.4985Atl13.007 
 H.LHSF.Hotels.Shelburne001  The Shelburne Hotel in the early days of Atlantic City.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H.Bk.917.4985Atl13.007.
 A circa-1960s brochure for the Shelburne Hotel.

 

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Local History Subject Files – Hotels
Hotel Brochures – Heston Coll. 647.94

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 The first Hotel Strand was opened in 1898, by proprietors Fairbairn & Williams, at 164 S. Virginia Avenue. It is unknown why the proprietors abandoned this property, but by 1901, Fairbairn & Williams had opened another Hotel Strand at 178 South Pennsylvania Avenue. The Strand had 300 rooms and 200 baths. During World War II, it was one of many hotels in Atlantic City to be converted into military use and house army personnel. After a fire in the hotel in the early 1950s, the property was purchased by the Leeds and Lippincott families, who owned the neighboring Chalfonte-Haddon Hall complex. They demolished one fire-gutted section, reducing the hotel to 100 rooms, and operated it first as the Hotel Abbey, and later Abbey Motor Hotel. The structure was hooked into the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall’s power supply as a resource-conserving measure. Meanwhile, previous owners Manny and Claire Solomon opened a new Strand Motel further downbeach, on the site on which the Golden Nugget casino was later built. The Abbey Motor Hotel finally ceased operations in 1978, when the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall was bought out by Resorts International. It was presumably demolished to make way for the new casino project. H084.Strand001 
 

 

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Local History Subject Files – Hotels
Hotel Brochures – Heston Coll. 647.94
City Directories

 A circa-1900 postcard illustration of the Strand Hotel.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H084.Strand001.

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The Jefferson Hotel opened in 1927 at 138 S. Kentucky Avenue. In later years, the address was changed to 136 S. Kentucky. The hotel was often popular with vacationers from Pennsylvania, and it was reported by those associated with the hotel that Stevie Wonder performed there in 1962, while still under the name of Little Stevie Wonder. While the hotels around it disappeared with the dawning of the casino age, the Jefferson hung on. In 1986 it was advertising itself as “The New Jefferson Hotel,” however, by the next year it had disappeared from city directories and instead became office space for the neighboring Sands Casino’s corporate division. When the Sands was bought out by Pinnacle Entertainment, it and several neighboring buildings were demolished in order to make way for a new megaresort. The Jefferson finally met the wrecking ball in 2007, though Pinnacle’s new casino project never came to fruition.  H084.Jefferson001 
 

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Local History Subject Files - Hotels

 A postcard advertising the Jefferson Hotel and its various facilities from 1952.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H084.Jefferson001.

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 Despite motels being commonplace today, the opening of John’s Motel at Sovereign and Pacific Avenues was a celebrated event in 1953. At the time, Atlantic City was known for its grand hotels, but tourism had declined, and many of these older buildings found themselves in dire need of remodeling without the funds to do so. Meanwhile, the “motel craze” was sweeping the tourism industry, offering families low-cost, no frills lodging. Seeing the success of the new trend in other cities, Frances and John Ginnetti decided to build a motel in Atlantic City. Although many initially bristled at the idea, lawmakers eventually got behind it, hoping that lower fares and newer facilities would again attract tourists. Commissioner Richard Jackson even did the honors at the dedication of John’s Motel. Its first guests were F.G. Lovelady of Ontario, Canada, and his son. Initially, the motel only had 8 rooms, and all of the work was done by the owners until they could save enough money to hire help. Later success led to the addition of more rooms on top of the original 8, and to the adjacent John’s Motel II.  H009.647.94Joh1418
 H084.Johns001  John's Motel on Pacific Avenue in 1955.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H009.647.94Joh1418.
 Postcard for John's Motel II, undated.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H084.Johns001.
 

Soon, there was a motel boom in every section of Atlantic City. Many stately old Boardwalk hotels even had their own “motel wings” constructed in order to offer cheaper and more attractive options. In the late 1970s, John’s Motel was honored with a plaque commemorating its status as the city’s first motel. By then, however, focus in the city had shifted to the new casino industry, and fewer families nationwide chose motel vacations. John’s Motel shut its doors in 1982 after a string of robberies at the business.

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

Local History Subject Files – Hotels
City Directories
H040 Living History collection – Oral History interview with Frances Ginnetti



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Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle was one of Atlantic City’s early political bosses, predating and inspiring famed 1920s boss Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Born in 1857, Kuehnle moved from New York City to New Jersey at the age of only one, after his parents decided to open a hotel in Egg Harbor City. In 1875, they moved again to Atlantic City to open Kuehnle’s Hotel. According to Franklin Kemp, the building which Kuehnle’s overtook was previously known as the West End Hotel, and in 1874 was the site where Atlantic City’s first fire company was founded. The first electric streetlamp in the city was also lighted outside of the hotel. Situated at the terminus of Atlantic City’s first railroad line, at South Carolina and Atlantic Avenues, the hotel profited from the bustle of activity in the area. After Louis Kuehnle rose to power and inherited the hotel, its saloon, “The Corner,” became a meeting place for Atlantic City politicians. In 1893, he added a four-story addition to the property, known as “the Annex,” which he rented out as storefronts and apartments. In 1911, Kuehnle’s fortunes changed as a campaign to clean up Atlantic City found him indicted for corruption and voter fraud. Although he would continue to play smaller roles in Atlantic City politics, his former dominance was gone. Kuehnle’s Hotel disappeared from the city in 1921, and was replaced with the Boardwalk National Bank building. The concrete structure is still standing today, and among other businesses, still houses a bank.  H084.Kuehnles001 
 

For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:

City Directories
“Firefighting by the Seashore”, Heston Coll. 352.3Kem
“Atlantic City: Then and Now”, Heston Coll. 974.98504Mau
Louis “Commodore” Kuehnle, article on the Atlantic City Experience website
“Book of the Boardwalk,” Heston Coll. 974.985But

 A circa 1910s postcard shows Kuehnle's Hotel.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H084.Kuehnles001.

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