The pillars outside of the entrance to Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall contain many markers commemorating events and people.
The original of these is a marker put in place upon the building's dedication. Boardwalk Hall, originally known as Convention Hall, was completed in 1929 at a cost of $15 million (almost $200 million in today's dollars). A huge undertaking designed to make Atlantic City a premier convention destination for organizations across the country, the building was at the time the largest in the world designed without any roof-posts or pillars supporting its ceiling. Instead, it is held up by 10 pairs of three-hinged steel trusses, each spanning 350 feet across and weighing 220 tons. The building is so massive that helicopters have been flown inside of it. Over the years, it has hosted many prominent events, such as the 1964 Democratic National Convention, the first indoor football game in 1930, and concerts by international superstars, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Hall has also been home to several Atlantic City traditions, including the Ice Capades, the Sea Gulls hockey team, and, most famously, the Miss America Pageant. The building contains the largest pipe organ in the world, with over 33,000 pipes. Convention Hall was placed on the New Jersey register of historic places in 1993. Its name was changed to Boardwalk Hall in 1997, following the opening of a new combined convention facility and railroad terminal in another section of the city.
Boardwalk Hall also features a plaque dedicated to the memory of Howard Persina, a longtime director of Convention Hall. Originally from the Bronx, New York, Persina began his career in the world of conventions in 1948 as a porter in New York's Grand Central Palace. He moved up the ranks to head porter, and finally assistant superintendent. Following this, Persina served as director of operations at the New York Coliseum, before moving to Atlantic City and becoming general manager of Convention Hall in 1974. Persina retired from the convention and tourism world in 1995.
8/16/23 - 4/20/08
As Executive Director of the Atlantic City Convention Hall for over two decades, Howard Persina hosted some of America's most important conventions, including the Pittsburgh Conference, and exciting entertainment events, from Luciano Pavarotti and The Rolling Stones, to the annual Miss America Pageant.
Mr. Persina helped visitors to Atlantic City take home memories that have lasted a lifetime.
Other plaques fronting the Hall commemorate events that have occurred within it. The Home of the Miss America Pageant plaque commemorates perhaps the most famous event ever held within Boardwalk Hall. The Miss America Pageant began using the Hall as its home in 1946, and remained there for nearly six more decades before the pageant's home was moved to Las Vegas. Miss America will return to her original home, however, in September 2013. More information about the history of the Miss America Pageant can be found here.
Atlantic City Convention Center
"Home of the Miss America Pageant"
Presented to the Miss America Pageant in commemoration and deep appreciation of their love affair with Atlantic City for the past six decades
Dedicated January 21, 1987 by The Atlantic City Convention Center Authority and the citizens of Greater Atlantic City
The Casino Control Act plaque commemorates Atlantic City's legalization of casino gambling. On November 2, 1976, voters approved a long-campaigned-for referendum to legalize gambling within Atlantic City. The City became the first location in the United States outside of Nevada to do so. The Casino Control Act was adopted June 2, 1977, and was signed into law outside of Convention Hall. Since its legalization, the casino industry has drawn millions of visitors each year to Atlantic City, and generated billions in revenue and tax profits. The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, created in 1984, has contributed to many urban revitalization projects across the state. Following a law that each Atlantic City casino must invest 1.25% of its gross profits into redevelopment projects first within the city, then in other urban areas in New Jersey, the CRDA has invested $1.8 billion in 400 projects throughout the state. The Casino Revenue Fund also exists to provide programs for senior citizens and the disabled, working off of an 8% tax on gross casino profits.
On Thursday, June 2, 1997, New Jersey Governor Brendan T. Byrne signed into law the Casino Control Act, enabling New Jersey to become the second state in the United States to allow casino gaming. This landmark Atlantic City event took place on this site, in front of historic Boardwalk Hall.
Another plaque celebrates the Atlantic City Centennial, which was celebrated in 1954. One hundred years of Atlantic City history were commemorated with a wide variety of events and activities throughout the summer season. Several sporting contests were held, including fishing contests, regattas, golf tournaments, and even a decathlon. A commemorative "Centennial Train" was also run twice daily down the length of the Boardwalk. A scale replica of the first train to run to Atlantic City, it was ten cars long, with each car featuring animated figures representing significant components of Atlantic City history. These included cars for the construction of Convention Hall, the Miss America Pageant, Atlantic City's military occupation during World War II, and a celebration of the city's early vaudeville celebrities. The Centennial celebrations were also marked with the popular "Hotel and Restaurant Skills Day," where 30 resort establishments sent their staff to compete in a variety of contests. Events included racing while carrying loaded dinner trays - in hands and on top of heads - chef's carving contests, and bedmaking contests. The competition was held outside of Convention Hall. 1954 also marked two other anniversaries in Atlantic City: the silver anniversary of Convention Hall, and the "Diamond Jubilee of Light," the 75th anniversary of Thomas Edison's invention of the electric lightbulb in 1879. This event was celebrated in conjunction with Centennial events in the resort, due to Atlantic City's long history of captivating boardwalk illumination.
Always in focus
Forever our friend
Presented to Atlantic City on its Centennial by the Press Photographers Association of Philadelphia
Like many other locations in Atlantic City, Boardwalk Hall also features war memorials. These include one of two plaques in the city commemorating Atlantic City's years as "Camp Boardwalk," the other being located within Resorts Casino. More information about Atlantic City in the World War II years can be found here. Another plaque, presented by Atlantic City's American Legion post, commemorates those who made the Supreme Sacrifice in World War II. A third marker commemorates those who fought in the Spanish-American War. Other Atlantic City war memorials are located in O'Donnell Park and Venice Park.
Text of the Supreme Sacrifice marker:
Columbus Post No. 335
Atlantic City, N.J.
In memory of those who have made the Supreme Sacrifice in World War II
1941 - 1945
[list of names follows]
Text of the Spanish-American War marker:
"You triumphed over obstacles which would have overcome men less brave and determined." - President McKinley
Presented by the Auxiliary United Spanish War Veterans
36th Annual Convention
September 10-14, 1939
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Finally, the area across from Boardwalk Hall is devoted to Kennedy Plaza. An original architectural feature built to compliment Convention Hall in 1929, the plaza was renamed during the Democratic National Convention of 1964, which occurred only months after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In commemoration of his legacy, a bust of the President was designed and unveiled at the site by artist Evangelos Frudakis. It remains at the plaza today, in conjunction with the Workers' Monument.
Text on the John F. Kennedy Statue:
"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
35th President of the United States
May 29 1917
Nov 22 1963
For more information, see:
Atlantic City Press, articles from April 21, 1998, November 21, 1970, May 3, 1964, April 16, 1993, February 3, 1993, January 15, 1995, February 14, 2000, and May 26, 1992
South Jersey Living, article from September 9, 1979
"Atlantic City Convention Center - Historic Highlights" in Heston Subject Folder
Learn, Blair: "Atlantic City Convention Hall - A Building for All People" Heston coll. 725.83