Posted March 1, 2016

Temple historian discusses Atlantic City on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’

Bryant Simon talks about the city’s rise and fall as a once-great seaside destination.

A red, white and black roulette wheel.
iStock images
Professor of History Bryant Simon discusses the consequences of the city tying its fate to gambling.

Once a grand tourist mecca, Atlantic City, New Jersey, has fallen on hard times. Temple Professor of History Bryant Simon visited National Public Radio’s Fresh Air, one of the most popular and influential radio shows in the U.S., to talk about the area’s ups and downs.

“Atlantic City [was] Disneyland before there [was] Disneyland,” Simon told host Dave Davies. “It’s really a city at the beach. It’s not some quaint town with dunes and white clapboard houses. It’s a town that’s vertical. And so it produces a 20th century urban fantasy at the beach and in many ways becomes, because of that, America on steroids—its best and worst features bloated and exaggerated.”

“Atlantic City [was] Disneyland before there [was] Disneyland,”
-- Professor of History Bryant Simon
Simon—author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America and a native of southern New Jersey—shared his observations about Atlantic City’s public spaces, its evolving demographics and its ill-fated embrace of gambling. (Archived audio and a full transcript of the episode are available online.)

Simon also has discussed how Atlantic City is portrayed on TV and in film in The New Yorker, toured the city’s unusual sites with a Washington Post travel reporter and lamented how the city tied its fate to gambling in The New York Times and on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show.

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