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The Tartarian Skyscraper ‘Traymore by The Sea’ Hotel in Atlantic City

The HBO drama Boardwalk Empire used the Atlantic City skyline, circa 1920, as the back drop for the series opening titles, including both the Traymore by the sea and the famed Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel.

I discovered Traymore by The Sea about a year ago while diving in my local historical archives. I was shocked the internet lacked little, if any information or knowledge of this beautiful structure. I posted about it on stolenhistory.org , and to my surprise the post became very popular. The architecture of Traymore by The Sea is reminiscent of Moorish (tray-MORE) and “Tartarian” architecture.

The main focus on the forum was to discover construction photographs, which for months no one could find. I have finally discovered construction photographs from a 1915 Modern Building magazine. Beautiful? Absolutely. Real? I sure hope so.

Here is a quick breakdown of this massive, forgotten resort-hotel from Atlantic City’s lost history named Traymore by The Sea.

boarding house

The Traymore by The Sea Hotel was a resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Begun as a small boarding house in 1879, the hotel expanded and became one of the city’s premier resorts. As Atlantic City began to decline in its popularity as a resort town, during the 1950s and 1960s, the Traymore by The Sea diminished in popularity. By the early 1970s the hotel was abandoned and severely run down. It was imploded and demolished between April and May 1972, a full four years before the New Jersey State legislature passed the referendum that legalized gambling in Atlantic City.

Compliments: Jared Boosters

Beginnings

Like most of the pre-casino Atlantic City resorts, the Traymore by The Sea went through several incarnations. It started off as a modest ten-room wooden cottage boarding house located at Illinois Avenue and the Boardwalk. The name “Traymore” came from the hotel’s steadiest customer, “Uncle Al Harvey”, a rich Marylander who had named his estate “Traymore” after his home town in Ireland.

The first hotel was rather flimsy, as it was destroyed by a severe winter storm on January 10, 1884. It was quickly rebuilt and enlarged. When rebuilt, the owners made the hotel stronger and more modern, adding indoor plumbing and bathrooms. They also added a spacious lawn between the hotel and the Boardwalk that proved to be valuable when a September 1889 storm struck the city.

The lawn protected the hotel from any serious damage. The hotel’s modern appointments led to it becoming very popular. It stayed open year-round, and by 1898 it grew into the city’s largest hotel with over 450 rooms. By 1906 the Traymore’s owner, Daniel White, hired the firm of Price and McLanahan to construct a new tower which brought the hotel right up to the boardwalk.

Expansion

By 1914, the Traymore by The Sea, which had been the city’s most popular hotel, now had stiff competition from the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel, located across from the Traymore on Ohio Avenue and the Boardwalk. Owner Josiah White III, Daniel White’s half brother, had contracted the services of Price and McLanahan to build an extension to his Marlborough House which had opened in 1902. The result was the modern Blenheim hotel which was one of the first hotels constructed using reinforced concrete.

Built during the autumn and winter of 1914–15, White contracted with Price and McLanahan to replace the existing wooden-frame Traymore by The Sea with a massive concrete structure that would rival the Marlborough-Blenheim. Price’s Traymore by The Sea was built directly behind the 1906 tower, and 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.

The new Traymore by The Sea opened in time for the 1915 season, and was a success. Built with tan brick and capped by yellow-tiled domes, the Traymore by The Sea instantly became the city’s architectural showpiece when it opened in June 1915. The hotel was such a success that White commissioned a 25-story additional tower to be built, but was unable to secure funding for the project due to World War I.

The Traymore catered to an upscale clientele, and was described in 1924 as “the Taj Mahal of Atlantic City,” decades before Donald Trump opened a casino resort with that name.

The Traymore by The Sea featured four faucets in every bathtub: hot and cold city water, hot and cold ocean water. There was a fifth faucet in the sink for ice water.

The Traymore by The Sea was leased by the US Military during World War II, as part of Army Air Force Basic Training Center No. 7. The forty-seven Atlantic City resort hotels taken over by the United States Military were collectively dubbed “Camp Boardwalk”. The Traymore was operated jointly with the adjacent Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel as the England General Hospital, which opened on April 28, 1944.

The hospital was named for Lt. Col. Thomas Marcus England, who had worked with Walter Reed researching yellow fever in Cuba in 1900. The Traymore served as the convalescent reconditioning section of the hospital. The last patients left the hospital in June 1946 and the Traymore was returned to its owners and reopened soon after.

The Traymore Hotel Outdoor and Indoor Swimming Pools were built 1954 to designs by architect Samuel Juster of New York City.

Demise

The hotel remained popular well into the 1950s, but as Atlantic City declined in the 1960s, the Traymore did as well. The availability of home air conditioning and swimming pools, coupled with inexpensive and frequent airline services to destinations in Florida and the Caribbean, led to the decline of Atlantic City as the premier ocean resort. By the early 1970s, the hotel was defunct and was causing its owners large financial deficits. It was decided to demolish the hotel, despite a campaign to save the architectural landmark.

On April 27, 1972 the hotel experienced the first of three planned controlled implosions implemented by Jack Loizeaux. By May 1972 the hotel was completely demolished. For a time, the once-famous hotel held the Guinness World Record for largest controlled demolition—with a capacity of nearly 6.5 million cubic feet (180,000 m3), the Traymore was the largest (though not highest) structure yet demolished. The spectacle is captured in the 1980 film Atlantic City. As well as the 1974 Walt Disney Film Herbie Rides Again in the beginning of the film where Alonzo Hawk demolishes numerous buildings.

Caesars Atlantic City purchased the land in the late 1970s and utilized it as a parking lot. The casino intended to develop a hotel there, however, the plan did not materialize. In 2006, Pinnacle Entertainment announced that it purchased the Traymore site and the adjacent Sands Atlantic City casino hotel. Pinnacle demolished the Sands and planned to develop a new casino on the combined parcels. Harsh economic times later caused Pinnacle to delay construction of the new resort. In February 2010, the company announced that it had canceled its construction plans and would instead seek to sell the land. Most of the Traymore site remains a parking lot.

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