This introductory chapter begins with a description of Atlantic City during its heyday as a popular tourist destination between 1916 and 1965, its sharp decline in the 1970s, and resurgence as a gambling town. Charting Atlantic City's halcyon days and hard times highlights two key moments, not just in the city's past, but also in America's urban past. The period of the busy, fashionable Boardwalk points to the widespread appeal of racialized versions of the American Dream during the last century, when an essentially segregated Atlantic City stood as the nation's most popular middle-class resort. The city's demise, meanwhile, underscores the awesome scope of the urban crisis and mass exodus to the suburbs of the 1960s and 1970s. Charting these two time periods and what they represent means investigating the changing strategies of tourist entrepreneurs and the shifting tastes of middle-class vacationers, the collapse of the main street and the downtown public entertainment industry, and the emergence of the mall and the appeal of mall-like places as models for urban renewal.
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