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Atlantic City History

Atlantic City history looms large in popular culture. The AC, as the small city is known today, popped up in 1783 when some hardy pioneers pitched tents on the desolate sand dunes of Absecon Island. It only took about a century for some visionaries to realize its real estate potential, and developers descended, bringing with them train service linking AC to Philadelphia. Hotels mushroomed, and in 1870 the famous boardwalk appeared. By the late-1880s, piers were being built, with the Steel Pier declaring itself "Showplace of the Nation." For another 40 years the AC was gripped by rampant growth, and its attractions grew wilder and wilder as hoteliers and local businesses tried to invent reasons to keep the crowds coming. Despite all the extreme effort and carnival-like atmosphere created, an economic depression had overtaken the AC by the end of WWII. The seaside city quickly became seedy, derelict and in need of a facelift.  It wasn't until 1978, when AC residents voted to allow legalized gambling, that the city's luck returned. Its old, ramshackle hotels—many of which had been turned into creepy nursing homes—were pulled down. New and improved facilities went up, and city promoters began trying to tout AC as a cheaper, more convenient and safer option for gamblers than louche Las Vegas, which in the 1980s had a reputation for mob violence. Curiously enough, the AC owes a certain debt to boxer Mike Tyson, who did a lot to raise its national profile by holding all his prize fights there. By the 1990s, AC was firmly out of its decades-long malaise, and when the luxe Borgata hotel went up in 2003, there was no longer any doubt this seaside resort was back on the map.