Atlantic City was once known as “America’s favorite playground,” and has been referred to (retrospectively) as the “boardwalk empire.” But the glitzy resort city where generations have reveled is seeing a downturn in tourism from its glory days. Its lifeblood, the casino industry, has taken a back seat to competitors in New York and Pennsylvania.
When Atlantic City’s economy soared in the early 20th century, the Parker Brothers used the city’s layout as the foundation for the now-classic board game, Monopoly.
Walking around the city now, it’s obvious to locals what has changed since Atlantic City’s Monopoly days. But if you’re not from Atlantic City, the original Parker Brothers’ board serves as a helpful guide for just how much things have changed.
According to Vicky Gold Levi, co-founder of the Atlantic City Historical Museum, the neighborhoods sectioned off by color on the board have been transformed.
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Many of the cheaper properties on the board (the brown, light blue and magenta rectangles) have fallen behind. Places like Pacific Avenue have deteriorated, and Atlantic Avenue, once the best shopping street in Atlantic City’s heyday, has bowed to an outlet mall. The new six-block shopping district doesn’t even exist on the streets on the board.
“The city has changed its ‘dimensionality’ over the years,” Levi said. “There’s now neighborhoods that aren’t so great that were homey neighborhoods. There are slums and nice areas right next to each other.”
Another thing that has blurred the lines of certain neighborhoods is the city’s growing diversity. Areas that used to be predominately African American or Jewish have seen growth in Vietnamese, Bangladeshi and Hispanic neighbors.
One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the value of the Monopoly board’s highest-priced properties.
“The boardwalk has always been the artery of the city. It’s always flourished even in dark times,” said Levi. “They say ‘location, location, location.’ Here, it’s ‘ocean, commotion and don’t forget the sun lotion!'”
Watch Paul Solman’s report on Atlantic City’s dying casino industry below.
And don’t miss Paul’s previous encounter with Monopoly in our “Money on the Mind” video: