Living in the Ritz
When it opened on June 21, 1921, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Atlantic City was the epitome of posh living. Every detail of the structure exuded wealth and status, from the faucets for fresh or salt water in every guest room to the private elevators for beachgoers to the grand staircase and elegant ballroom.
The Ritz-Carlton was designed by New York City architect Sir Charles Wetmore and constructed by the Thompson-Starrett Company. It was erected at a cost of $6,250,000 in the early 1920s (almost $70 million in 2010 dollars). Located at Iowa Avenue and the Boardwalk, the seventeen-story structure has 131 feet of Boardwalk frontage.
Many of the amenities the Ritz-Carlton boasted were state of the art or unique among hotels at the time. In the early 1920s, the amenities included:
- fresh- and salt-water faucets for hot and cold water delivery to each guest room
- on-site artesian well to supply spring water
- pantries on each floor for quicker room service
- bathers' elevators to allow guests to access the beach without having to pass through the hotel lobby: elevator walls were made of hard rubber and the floor was cork to prevent slipping on water
- hairdressing salon run by a well-known dresser from New York City
- Maude Earl Room, a writing room adjoining the parlor, decorated with rare and antique art
- three restaurants on the premises: Ritz Restaurant, Trellis Room, and Ritz Grill
- outdoor dining terrace overlooking the ocean
- merry-go-round shaped bar
- Ritz-Carlton Terrace: performers in the 1920s included Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, Red Nichols and Milton Berle
A 1926 ad for one of the Ritz Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton. (H009.RitzRestMay311926Amusements. Atlantic City Heritage Collections, Atlantic City Free Public Library).
|When the building was dedicated in 1921, hotel president Richard Harris announced, "We are out to do business with theaverage American citizen without regard to race, religion or politics." Although this was the intention, the Ritz-Carlton quickly became the haven for the well-to-to visiting the Nation's Playground.
City boss Enoch "Nucky" Johnson leased the entire ninth floor from which he conducted the business of the day. Other well-known guests included author Bruce Barton, actor Eddie Cantor, Al Capone, Calvin Coolidge, Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, Sophie Tucker, and Mayor Jimmy Walker (Beau James).
During the Depression, the Ritz Carlton fell on hard times and the owners defaulted on the mortgage. In 1937, the hotel was reorganized under bankruptcy. During World War II, the Ritz Carlton was one of several Atlantic City hotels to serve as military barracks for soldiers in training and recuperation. After changing hands several times after the war, the hotel was converted to apartments in June 1969. Presently, it is operated as The Ritz Condominium.
Resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library Atlantic City Heritage Collections:
Nelson Johnson. Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City. (Plexus Publishing, Medford, NJ, 2002).
ACFPL Collection of Atlantic City Postcards (H049).
Local History Subject Binder – "Hotels".