The Father of Atlantic City

by R. Cohen | Apr 14, 2008
The Father of Atlantic City In a notion many people called the "Railroad to Nowhere", one particular man is most credited with bringing the railroad to Atlantic City and county. That man, Dr. Jonathan Pitney, is often referred to as "the father of Atlantic City". It was Dr. Pitney who first saw the possibilities of Atlantic City as a premier resort city.

A native of Mendham, NJ, Dr. Pitney settled in Absecon in 1820. His home still exists on Shore Road. Recently refurbished, it operates today as a bed and breakfast. Finding time between treating patients, Dr. Pitney took an active role in the area's civic life.

He was postmaster and recorder of shipwrecks. He led the fight to have Atlantic County divorced from Gloucester County in 1837. He was Atlantic County's delegate to the State Constitutional Convention in 1844. He ran for Congress in 1848.

One hundred forty-eight years ago this week, Dr. Pitney shared his idea with General Enoch Doughty, a successful merchant and landowner. Meeting in Doughty's store on Shore Road in Absecon, they wrote the first draft of a railroad company charter.

One year later, in early March, 1852, New Jersey granted the Camden and Atlantic Railroad Company a charter to operate a railroad to Atlantic City.

There were fifteen stations between Camden and Atlantic City. The railroad, true to the promise of Dr. Jonathan Pitney, created a land boom. Most of all, the railroad brought Atlantic City within the reach of Philadelphians, who no longer needed to endure an all day ride in an open stage coach to reach a bathing beach.

Today, Dr. Pitney's dream, derided at the time as a "railroad to nowhere," has helped make Atlantic City and county the world's most visited tourist destination.

Edited 4/13/08

For more South Jersey History, visit our History page.

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Author: R. Cohen

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