Nucky’s Home Base: The 1920’s Ritz-Carlton Atlantic City


Ritz-Carlton Atlantic City

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today the address 2715 Boardwalk & Iowa Avenue in Atlantic City, NJ is home to the Ritz Condominium Association, officially losing its Ritz-Carlton luster in 1982. However, the redbrick rectangular structure still holds the grand memories and magnificent character of the roaring 1920’s Ritz-Carlton Atlantic City. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced its plan to build in the social shore town in 1911. The hotel was a dream concept for Atlantic City tourists and residents with state-of-the-art apparatuses, including fresh and salt-water faucets in each room and cupboards on each landing. The hotel restaurants overlooked the ocean complete with a modern merry-go-round shaped bars. The hotel was complete with casino, adding to the hotel’s allure with big-dollar card games.

On June 24, 1921, New York architects Warren and Wetmore and the Thompson-Starrett Company, christened the new glamorous Atlantic City hotel with a swanky gala. Warren and Wetmore were known as Ritz-Carlton pros, already completing the New York City and Montreal branches. However, their main claim-to-fame was New York’s famously elegant Grand Central Terminal. Through their grandiose 600-room hotel design, the hotel estimated cost was eight million dollars in 1921. In addition, the architects added “Ambassador Bungalows”, located on the site of the present Ascot Motel in Atlantic City.

Shortly after the grand opening, a tall man shaped by his hand-tailored suit, complete with red carnation on his lapel, entered the Ritz-Carlton and made it his home of business. At the time, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson was treasurer of the city and already grasped power from the Republican Party. “Nucky” preferred the 9th level of the Ritz-Carlton and would often lease the entire floor. Rumors suggest that he kept one closet stuffed with cash and an entire room stuffed with bootlegged liquor for his female companions, associates and visiting crime lords.

Gang leaders, like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein and Danny Walsh, flooded to Nucky’s retreat, creating new alliances that focused on the bootlegging business. In 1929, the Ritz-Carlton became home to the first national organized crime convention, forming the “Big Seven Group” or “Combined Group”.

In the 1920’s, this Atlantic City shore resort was party central for celebrities and gangsters, alike. To tourists it promised a new era of splendor by the beach. To Enoch Johnson it was his own personal playground. “Nucky” might have been the main character of Atlantic City, but the Ritz-Carlton was the setting, where all the crime and magic happened.

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