History of the Arcade Building
Soon after the Casino Control Commission’s formation, it moved into the second floor of the Arcade Building and occupied an office space that had been the headquarters of the Miss America Pageant.
The Boardwalk Arcade Building was built in Atlantic City's roaring heyday before the Great Depression. The bustling Boardwalk National Bank had outgrown its space in a local hotel and decided to build a new headquarters at Tennessee Avenue and the Boardwalk. It was a time when the boardwalk was a major vacation and entertainment hub – the place to see and be seen.
The two-story high, barrel-vaulted arch at the boardwalk entrance defined the building. The bank's name is permanently embedded in the terrazzo and if you look closely, you can also see the coat of arms with the initials “BNB,” held by two figures that could be King Neptune.
Inside, the building was a precursor to modern shopping malls. The boardwalk entrance opened into a two-story atrium topped by skylights. According to Butler's Book of the Boardwalk, there were 103 stores and offices in the building when it opened in April 1927. They lined both sides of the atrium on both floors, resembling an "arcade" or "passageway with shops on either side," which gave the building its name.
Some of the stores were situated in the basement of the building, including a barbershop. Each basement store had its own entrance from the street. Located between the present-day overhead garage door and the modern elevator, ice cream was stored in large ice chests. On hot summer days, vendors (many of whom were teachers working their summer job) carried the ice cream onto the beach where it was sold to sunbathers. Past the elevator, the bank's coin vault can still be found.
When the Commission moved into the building, it looked much like it did back in 1927. The first Public Meeting Room was located where the Commission’s Law Library now stands on the second floor. As the Commission's need for space grew, the building was converted into more conventional office space. The open portions of the second floor were filled in and the look of an arcade was lost.
Until the mid-1990s, other tenants including the Miss America Pageant still occupied the first floor. Although the bank's name had changed, a branch of the bank remained on the first floor where the Public Meeting Room is located today.
In 1996, the other tenants moved out and the Commission took over most of the Arcade Building, centralizing all of its office staff there. The present-day Public Meeting Room was constructed and the commissioners' dais was made from the original teller windows, which were previously positioned along the Ocean Avenue side of the room but are now along the boardwalk side.
Many historical touches remain around the building, including the night depository door in the lobby outside the Public Meeting Room, a wood-covered opening where there was an ATM until the early 1990s, an old building directory in the corridor that leads to the boardwalk, as well as decorative fireplaces in the Second Floor Closed Session Room. You can even find remnants of the bank’s walk-in safe beyond the First Floor Closed Session Room.
If you visit the building, keep an eye out for these distinct features that made the Arcade Building one of the finer addresses along Atlantic City’s boardwalk for decades.