For revamped historic pier, a 101st anniversary
When it was time to celebrate historic Garden Pier's 100th anniversary last summer, the place was still a mess after Hurricane Sandy - nine months earlier, the storm had blown the roof off and undermined the pilings beneath the Boardwalk structure.
It was a shame, because Garden Pier was the only one of the five major piers built during the Golden Age of Atlantic City that still retained some of the grandeur and beauty of the original.
Home to the Atlantic City Historical Museum and Arts Center since 1985, Garden Pier, with its Moorish-style red-clay tiled roof and formal gardens, attracted an upscale crowd when it was built as an entertainment venue. The centerpiece of the original pier was the B.F. Keith Theatre, which is said to have rivaled Broadway in its heyday for its vast offerings. The first Miss America Pageant was held there in 1921.
"It's so exciting to be able to celebrate the reopening of Garden Pier because it is a symbol of so much of Atlantic City's history," said Maureen Sherr Frank, director of the Atlantic City Free Public Library. The library coordinated the reopening of the pier, which is at the foot of New Jersey Avenue.
The modern incarnation of the pier, created in the late 1970s and revamped after Sandy, holds two identical 5,000-square-foot structures, one for the museum and the other for the arts center. Inside the historical museum is much of the resort's storied past, from rolling chairs to Miss America capes to ephemera like menus from long washed-away restaurants touting "Seashore Dinners" to original Monopoly boards.
The arts center, which will house rotating exhibits, now contains an outpost of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, featuring images and artifacts in a presentation called "The Northside: The Way We Were." The display highlights the city's black community from the 1930s to the '60s.
The museum is open daily except major holidays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. The arts center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday during the summer. Admission is free.
- Jacqueline L. Urgo