Historic Atlantic City

Historic and Prohibition-era Locations to Visit in Atlantic City

Looking for a bit of Prohibition-era Atlantic City? Want to delve more into the area’s storied past? Here are some suggestions:

Absecon Lighthouse, Rhode Island Ave. between Pacific and Atlantic Aves. Has been here since the Civil War era. The lighthouse still works, and for a small charge you can climb the 228 steps to the top for a beautiful view of Atlantic City. The recreated lighthouse keepers cottage on the first floor is a museum and gift shop, and is available at no charge.

If you look out from the docks at Gardner’s Basin, New Hampshire Ave. and the bay, to the houses across the way, you’ll see a couple of the original “boat houses” that have docks under them where rum runners could unload their cargo in privacy. Some of them had speakeasies on the level above the docks.

The Ritz, the hotel where Nucky Johnson (the character that HBO’s Nucky Thompson is based on) lived, is now a condominium complex. It still has some lovely 1920s touches.

Dock’s Oyster House at Georgia and Atlantic Avenues has been owned and operated by the Dougherty family since 1897, serving fine seafood and steaks.

Knife and Fork Restaurant, Albany and Pacific Aves., has been restored and is still in operation. During Prohibition, the Knife and Fork operated a speakeasy.

The Irish Pub, a turn-of-the-century building on St. James Place, was a speakeasy during Prohibition, operating under a different name. Above the Pub is an inn where it is rumored that legendary labor leader Samuel Gompers held union meetings in the early days of the AFL.

Lucy the Elephant, a few miles south in Margate (originally South Atlantic City) was built by a real estate mogul as a roadside attraction to lure prospective land buyers. The six-story elephant is rumored to have been used by rum-runners to signal boats in the ocean – a red light in her eyes if they should stay in the ocean, a green light if it was safe to come ashore.

Renault Winery in nearby Egg Harbor City (about 20 minutes from Atlantic City) managed to stay open during Prohibition by obtaining special permission to provide its products in a “medicinal” form. It was sold in a form that you added water to for a curative drink. It is still in operation today, producing award-winning wines, and the complex now includes restaurants, a small hotel and a golf course.

Steel Pier & Central Pier still exist, although in very different size and form than during the Prohibition. Steel Pier is an amusement pier and Central Pier houses go-kart rides, an arcade and shops. Million Dollar Pier is now the upscale Pier Shops at Caesars.

Atlantic City Historical Museum on Garden Pier located at New Jersey Avenue on the Boardwalk.

Atlantic City Free Public Library, Tennessee and Pacific Aves., has a special photo exhibit of Prohibition-era Atlantic City and the Heston Room houses extensive archives from Atlantic City’s past.