By the middle of next month, the historic boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey, could lose some of its sparkle as four major casinos are scheduled to close. The Atlantic Club closed in January, Trump Plaza is doomed to shutter in September, and Revel and Showboat threaten to close if they can't find a buyer. More than 8,000 jobs are at stake.
Heather Perez, archivist at the Atlantic City Free Public Library, is charged with chronicling the city's history at the Atlantic City Historical Museum's beachside location.
"Atlantic City is the story of American tourism," says Perez, straightening the hat on the 6-foot-tall Mr. Peanut costume in one of the museum's cases. "People came here as their first place to go on vacation in the Northeast. Later on, people came here because it was the only place to go to have alcohol during Prohibition, and later on people came here because we were the only people with casinos on the East Coast."
Many of the museum's visitors pose with Mr. Peanut, but some of Perez's favorite items on display are the rolling chairs. Since the Boardwalk opened in the 1870s, people have loved to stroll along in the rolling chairs, and tourists still ride along in them today, although there are fewer of them than in years past.
"Atlantic City has always been about rebirth, so it’s always been about reinvention. First it was a health resort. Now it’s a casino resort, but we are reinventing ourselves constantly. There’s always something new for Atlantic City to do and try."