|The Ambassador first opened in 1919 with a 200-room facility, which was accompanied by a new 500-room addition in 1921. The building was constructed at a cost of $7.5 million, and due to the new Volstead Act, was one of the few hotels in Atlantic City to be built without a bar. Like other hotels in the city during Prohibition, however, alcohol was consumed in one way or another. There is even one report that local political boss Nucky Johnson once occupied the Ambassador’s Santa Barbara Bungalow. The Ambassador finally got its bar in 1933, famously shaped like a horseshoe. In its heyday, the Ambassador housed the Paul Whiteman orchestra, which featured future star Bing Crosby in some of his first professional singing engagements. Its indoor swimming pool, one of the first in the city, served as practice grounds for both the Atlantic City High School and the Ambassador “Mermaids” women’s swimming club. The Ambassador was occupied by the US Military from 1942-1945, and, in the waning tourism climate that followed, changed hands several times. It had been closed for a significant amount of time before being reopened 1964 in order to house members of the press coming to cover the Democratic National Convention. The poor state of the hotel, and many other aging facilities in Atlantic City, received prominent news coverage, highlighting the city’s decline. After remaining shuttered for 10 years, the Ambassador was finally sold for the last time for only $900,000 in 1977, as casino gambling was poised to begin in Atlantic City. Ramada Inns looked to transform the Ambassador into a casino modeled after the Tropicana Resort in Las Vegas. However, New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne had been disparaging of the fact that many “new” casinos in Atlantic City were really just quick fixes of older hotel structures. Therefore, the new Tropicana casino was constructed in an unusual manner, in which the Ambassador was stripped down to its steel supports, which were then reused to build the new structure. The Tropicana opened in 1981.
For more information, see these resources in the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic City Heritage Collections:
Local History Subject Files – Hotels
Local History Subject Files – Tropicana Casino
| A 1923 postcard shows the Ambassador Hotel.
From the Atlantic City Heritage Collections, H049.647.94Amb005.