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Shelburne Hotel

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Shelburne Hotel

Stony Creek granite can be traced back 600 million years within ancient mountain belts.  The rock cooled and solidified into a mass in what was once the Connecticut River basin and emptied into the Long Island Sound. The pink granite settled mostly in the Stony Creek and Thimble Islands region of Connecticut among the eastern region of the United States.  However whole streets in the upper part of New York have said to contain the granite but most likely all that is left is a thin covering over brownstone, backed with brick, which can easily be shaped into the most ornamental forms; but with the addition of the harsh elements of weather the brownstone can flake.  The granite is known for its strength, easy workability, and distinct appearance. The craftsmanship and reliability of the rock can still be seen today as it is still preserved and used in modern applications of architecture.  Stony Creek granite is known for being strong enough to withstand time and traffic while providing a distinctive curb appeal, with its pinkish-flecked hues.

Atlantic City, New Jersey’s, Shelburne Hotel not only boasted the historic Stony Creek granite but it for a time it was also was one of the few remaining older hotels in Atlantic City. It was a nationally significant resort known for the role it played in the “pre-casino” life of Atlantic City. The building sits on the corner of Michigan Avenue directly on the Boardwalk.  Originally constructed in 1869 and owned by Elisha Roberts, the hotel was simply a wood cottage.  Roberts’ named the hotel after England’s “Lord Shelburne,” the prime minister of Britain during the Revolution.  The Shelburne crest was adopted as the hotel’s logo.

By the 1900’s, the Shelburne underwent several expansions over the years under the guidance of hotel manager Jacob Weikel. The building became more modernized with a brick-face, steel frame, and multiple stories.  Weikel replaced the wooden structure with an all-brick building including the infamous Stony Creek granite and increased the size to 265 rooms under the architectural firm Warren and Wetmore in the opulent style of Colonial Revival style. The granite with it pinkish hue During this time the hotel became a popular get away for actors and actresses of the time such as James Buchanan, after which the dining room is named, Ethel Barrymore, Al Jolson, and George M. Cohan.

The architecture firm of Warren and Wetmore were called on to transition the Shelburne Hotel from a wooden structure into more modern times. Whitney Warren studied architecture in Paris at Ateliers of the Ecole des Beaus Arts after leaving New York at 18; he continued to live in Paris for ten years living a cosmopolitan lifestyle.  Upon his return in 1896 he partnered with Charles D. Wetmore to form the architecture firm Warren and Wetmore.  Charles D. Wetmore of Elmira, New York attended city schools until graduating from Harvard in 1889, after which he studied architecture in New York.

The team of Whitney Warren and Charles D. Wetmore had been the premiere architecture firm of its time having been well known for its extensive practices and designing of large hotels.  The society connections held by the two allowed them to commission jobs from clubs, private estates, hotels, terminal buildings and docks.  The firm’s first important commission was Grand Central Terminal in New York, followed by stations in railroad lines including Michigan Central, Canadian Northern, and Erie Roads. The firm’s outstanding reputation in the 1920s sprung from the designs they executed for hotels such as the Ambassador, Ritz Carlton, the Commodore, Vanderbilt, and the Biltmore of New York.The Great Depression bankrupted the hotel in 1931 as well as the bigger hotels surrounding the Shelburne- the Claridge, Traymore, and Chalfonte- Haddon Hotel.  Again the Shelburne Hotel changed ownership again to Frank Gravatt in the year 1945; Gravatt attempted to continue the renovations and service that Weikel had based the hotel’s reputation.

In the 1950’s as the automobile became accessible to people after the war so they weren’t staying longer than a few days in Atlantic City and suburbia meant people were becoming accustomed to luxuries and would much rather travel to resorts in Miami Beach and the Bahamas rather than the struggling Atlantic City.  The United States Army briefly took over the hotel in World War II before passing ownership to Max Malmut who in an attempt to revive the hotel made renovations and expanded the Shelburne to include Maple Leaf Skating Rink.  In 1976, New Jersey voters approved casino gambling for Atlantic City. The building was also inducted into the National Register of Historic Places on May 19, 1978.  The National Register of Historic Places is the United States official lists of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects the government considered worthy of protection.  The national register hopes its efforts would increase the total property value of building by providing tax incentives.

However by 1978, the hotel closed down due to the changing social status of the country and failing to transition into a casino like its neighboring competition.  The Malmut family leased the Shelburne to “Rocky” Aoki and Takashi Saskawa who planned on expanding the existing hotel 31 stories and to add a casino in the hopes of creating the Benihana Casino-Hotel. Nonetheless after 25 millions dollars was spent the project was abandoned because of disagreements with the Malmut family, outside investors, and the Casino Gaming Commission.  The structure was finally torn down in 1984.  As of 1997 Bally’s Wild Wild West Casino now stands in its place.

Works Cited

1.     Library of congress


2.     http://worthpoint.com/wrthopedia/Shelburne-hotel-atlantic0ciy-1920s-60-oz

3.     http://www.nyc-architecture.com/

4.     Bing Birds eye view

39.355833 N,-74.434167W

6.     http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&cp=39.355833~-74.434167&style=o&lvl=15&sp=Point.39.355833_-74.434167_Shelburne%20Hotel%20%28Atlantic%20City,%20New%20Jersey%29___

7.     http://toolserver.org/~geohack/geohack.php?pagename=Shelburne_Hotel_%28Atlantic_City,_New_Jersey%29¶ms=39_21_21_N_74_26_3_W_region:US-NJ_type:landmark

8.     http://themalamuts.info/?page_id=8

Last Updated on Monday, 27 December 2010 13:31  


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Flesh and Stone

Flesh and Stone - Stony Creek and the Age of Granite - buy at Amazon.com
Available on Amazon

Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.