Although now officially operating as Bally’s, the Dennis Hotel is one of the oldest names on the Boardwalk. In 1860, only six years after the founding of Atlantic City, schoolteacher William Dennis built a two-room summer cottage for himself on the beach at Michigan Avenue. After relatives caught wind of Dennis’s ideal vacation spot, more and more of them came down to visit, forcing Dennis to continually expand the cottage until it reached 22 rooms in 1864. After opening it to paying guests for three years, Dennis decided to get out of the boarding house business, and sold his property in 1867. The new owners, the Buzby family, would continue to operate the Dennis Hotel for over 100 years. The wooden structure of the Dennis kept growing, at one point reaching 40 rooms, until new construction was done in fireproof brick. The Dennis’s North Tower, which still stands today, was completed in 1911, while the South Tower was finished in 1925. The hotel has seen many interesting guests during its long tenure on the Boardwalk, including Helen Keller, Alexander Graham Bell, John Wanamaker, and the US Army, when it was occupied along with many other Atlantic City hotels during World War II. In 1975, it was sold along with its neighbors, the Marlborough and Blenheim hotels, to Bally’s, in speculation that casino gaming would soon be legalized in Atlantic City. It was soon determined that the Marlborough and Blenheim were too impractical and costly to renovate for the casino era. While they were razed in favor of a new structure, the Dennis was spared from the wrecking ball, receiving a complete makeover to accommodate Bally’s hotel guests. It served as the complex’s main hotel until Bally’s completed their pink glass tower in 1989, becoming the first casino in Atlantic City to have over 1,000 guest rooms available. The “Dennis Wing,” as it is known today, is still open for hotel guests, and also houses Harry’s Oyster Bar, a new establishment operated by the same family that runs the over 100 year-old Dock’s Oyster House. Thus, Atlantic City history is alive and well in the form of the Dennis, and looks to continue to be for years to come.   H009.647.94Den161
 dennis  This early 1900s photo of the Dennis shows some features which are still recognizable on the building today, despite additions that were made in the 1920s.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H009.647.94Den161.
 The Dennis Hotel in December 2014.  

 

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

Local History Subject Files – Hotels
Local History Subject Files – Bally’s Hotel Casino

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