Every news channel in the tri-state area, if not the entire U.S., aired minute-by-minute accounts of Superstorm Sandy's brutal march up the Eastern Seaboard. The accounts and pictures of the devastation were indelible. Weathermen and newscasters detailed the devastation: Entire neighborhoods underwater; houses washed away to sea; refugees from the storm looking wet, exhausted and shell-shocked; the famed Seaside Heights roller coaster crumbled and sitting eerily silent in the pounding surf.
Some of the newscasters though got the story wrong. Contrary to news reports, the iconic Atlantic City boardwalk was not washed away, and the city, its resorts, gambling casinos and luxury hotel rooms were far from underwater.
According to Jeff Guaracino, chief communications and strategy officer of the Atlantic City Alliance, a non-profit entity to revitalize and rebuild Atlantic City's reputation, the news reports were woefully inaccurate. “Everyone was reporting how the boardwalk was washed away, that was not true. A small already condemned section of the boardwalk, far from the resorts and the businesses that draw millions of visitors each year was washed away, but that was a good thing that Sandy did...it saved us the from paying for the demolition.”
Just days after the storm, the resorts and businesses were up and running, the entire boardwalk and city cleaned up and ready to welcome visitors. The visitors did not return however. Scared away from the news reports describing Atlantic City as a storm-ravaged wreck.
The Early Days
Atlantic City has had many ups-and-downs since the beginning. Because of its location in South Jersey, hugging the Atlantic Ocean between marshlands and islands, the area became a prime real estate destination and resort town for developers. In 1853, the first commercial hotel, The Belloe House, located at Massachusetts and Atlantic Avenue was built. The following year the city was incorporated and the Camden & Atlantic Railroad service began, serving as a direct link with Philadelphia. By 1874, more than 500,000 visitors per year took the train to Atlantic City and Dr. Jonathan Pitney, known as the “Father of Atlantic City,” was instrumental in convincing municipal authorities that a railroad to the beach would be beneficial. Pitney's vision was to develop Atlantic City into a premier health resort.