The Claridge Hotel and Brighton Park hold a rich and significant place in American history. The property is centrally situated on what many say is the most desirable plot of land in Atlantic City. In the late 1700’s the founder of Atlantic City, Jeremiah Leeds, built his family settlement on this plot of land.
Atlantic City remained mostly farmland owned by the Leeds’ family until Dr. Jonathan Pitney moved his medical practice to the island in the early 1800s. Renowned for its healing properties, Atlantic City enjoyed an explosion in popularity over the next hundred years. By the early 1900s two railroads were bringing visitors to the famed city by the sea. The northern track dropped passengers off at Tennessee Avenue and the southern track brought its passengers to Arkansas Avenue. Between these stations the original hotels formed the much-desired strand, which gave Atlantic City its reputation as the “playground of the gilded age”.
The most famous and by far the grandest of Atlantic City’s illustrious hotels was the Claridge Hotel. The 24-story hotel opened in 1930, during the Great Depression. General Electric provided the Fountain of Light that was in the center of Brighton Park, in front of the Claridge, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison. During the Boardwalk Empire era, the Claridge was known as the “Skyscraper By the Sea” because of its Manhattanesque design and height of 370 feet. It was also the first and only hotel to have running hot and cold, fresh and saltwater, as saltwater was believed to have health-giving properties.
The famous Philadelphia builder, John McShain, built the Claridge and spared no expense in doing so. He would go on to renovate The White House and to build the Pentagon, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, NY.
During the early 1940s, Atlantic City turned many of its hotels over to the United States government to aid in the efforts of World War II. In order to serve our country, the Claridge housed The United States Air Force.
The military occupation of Atlantic City came to an end in in late 1943. In November of that year, the attention of the Free World was on Atlantic City and the Claridge Hotel. As the most elegant hotel in Atlantic City, the Claridge was chosen to host delegates from 44 nations who were gathering to hold what may have been the most important international conference of the time, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration World Conference. The purpose of this conference was to “shorten the war and save the peace”. At this conference, three of the most important participants against the Axis Powers signed a pact. They were Soviet Ambassador Andrei Gromyko, British Ambassador Lord Halifax and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
At the close of this conference during the final plenary meeting of the UNRRA, held on December 1, 1943, the representative from Poland stated, “I am sure of voicing the opinion of all my colleagues in this council meeting when I say that we shall bring away with us from Atlantic City a feeling of warm gratitude and appreciation to His Honor the Mayor, the Commissioners, the so friendly citizens of this bracing ocean resort, and the management and staff of the Hotel Claridge… WHEREAS, the Council is appreciative of the attractive surroundings in which it has met and of the gracious hospitality extended to its members and their staffs.”
The Claridge is known for its excellent customer service, elegant settings, and luxurious ambiance. But did you know it was home to some of your favorite celebrities too? The glamorous Marilyn Monroe stayed at the Claridge during the fifties while she was grand marshal of the annual Miss America Pageant. Music fans will be pleased to know the 26 time Grammy Award winner, Frank Sinatra, frequented at the Claridge along with Bob Hope, Mickey Mantle, Martin Luther King Jr., Princess Grace of Monaco and so much more!
Did you know that legendary Hall of Fame Baseball great Mickey Mantle worked for the Claridge? The “Mick” joined the Claridge in 1983 as the Director of Sports Promotions where he met with guests, played golf with guests, signed autographs, and brought many famous baseball greats and Hall of Fame players to the Hotel, where they hosted many baseball signings and events on the 6th floor ballrooms. Mickey actually lived at the hotel while working at the Claridge.
Close to eight decades and many owners later, service remains central to the new management’s core values. As of February of 2014, TJM Atlantic City has taken the reigns as the newest owners of this historic hotel. TJM Atlantic City’s vision for the future of “The New Claridge” will be a dedication to preserving the glamour, charm and rich history of this landmark while adding new and exciting amenities for guests. A complete renovation project is scheduled to restore the original elegance and flare of the property – the very same charm that once attracted the likes of international dignitaries, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace and many others.