Atlantic City's Steel Pier

by Editorial Staff, Kathryn Clark | Jun 22, 2015
Atlantic City's Steel Pier Introduced on June 18, 1898, the Steel Pier was the first amusement pier in Atlantic City to be built on iron pilings and steel girders. Extending 1000 feet into the ocean, the pier was built by the Quakers as a place to relax and as a resort of their own. Quickly, this new phenomena became available to the public and was embraced by its onlookers. From the early days of the Quakers, operated by the Hamid family, the Steel Pier adhered to a strict policy of providing clean, wholesome entertainment for the whole family.

Once called the “Showplace of the Nation,” the Steel Pier boasted a long list of appearances by the top pioneers in show business. Ed Sullivan and Jackie Gleason refer to the Steel Pier as the place where they started their careers. Other famous names included Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplan, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and The Supremes. Pretty much any one who was anyone played the Steel Pier. The Ballroom had been the mecca of the Big Band sound and it has been said that bands truly did not become “big” until they played the Steel Pier.

Attention grabbing amusement at the pier was certainly not limited to its heyday celebrities. Endless amounts of other attractions contributed to “the handsomest and most luxuriously appointed pier in the world.” For nearly 40 years, the Diving Horse was one of the best known novelty acts on Steel Pier. For 25 years, the courageous Linda Carver plunged on horseback from a 40-foot tower into the water. The Human Cannonball, General Motors Exhibit, and daring aerialist who performed 100 feet above the ocean further solidified the Steel Pier as a place for epic entertainment.

Unfortunately, New Jersey’s Disneyland endured some trifling times. A storm of tidal wave proportions washed away part of the Pier in 1962 and, just before the 1970 season, a $1-million fire destroyed the famous Marine Ballroom, where the biggest names in show business had performed. Roped into the dismay was the increase in technology that allowed vacationers to experience the wonders presented by air travel. Slowly, the glory of the Steel Pier faded away until the Pier closed in 1976.

Nevertheless, just when people thought the Pier had permanently fallen into Atlantic City’s quirky past, a few brothers brought the family magnet back to life. In 1993, the Catanoso brothers put their love for the amusement business into action. Just 22 days after signing a five-year lease, the troupe reopened the landmark with 14 rides, not mention resurrecting the legendary Diving Horse.

Currently, there is some question as to just how long the aging beauty that is the Steel Pier can keep up with the younger competition. The Catanoso brothers have high hopes, relying on nostalgia to bring in visitors and modern day amusements and thrills to keep them coming back. Even with the speculation of a definite closure in 2006, the Pier has stood the test of time and the allure of the nearby casinos. Its reluctance to become merely an ancient pastime was proven this year.

On June 27th, 2008, the Steel Pier celebrated 110 years of family entertainment in Atlantic City. The stroll down memory lane was complete with live music, dancing, memorabilia, and a chance to reminisce. With over 24 rides, games, attractions, and free admission, the Steel Pier successfully lures families to a town that had become a one-dimensional casino resort.

While the Steel Pier has survived--and is doing well as an entertainment venue these days, many believe its true essence was lost when the inventive wooden pier was destroyed by the 1982 fire. Those lucky enough to have grown up on Steel Pier know very well that no one or thing can diminish the Pier’s lingering spark, which is still fueled by a first kiss and those first feelings of freedom.

The Steel Pier is now open daily until midnight, opening weekdays at 1pm and Saturday and Sunday at noon. The food court opens daily at 11am. Closing times and operating hours are subject to change at any time based on various factors including weather and crowd conditions.

Enjoy Steel Pier with a friend! Every Tuesday is two ticket Tuesday. Offer is good from 1pm- 5pm. Some restrictions may apply

For more information (and photo credit), go to www.steelpier.com.

Updated 6/19/15.

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For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

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