bright, loud, lucrative, and altogether American: they are our
The boardwalk was first invented
for utilitarian reasons - so that beach-goers could stroll along the
shore in their evening wear without tracking sand into train cars or
hotel lobbies. But it wasn't long before the imagination of a
country just becoming acquainted with the concept of leisure time
transformed the boardwalk into something much more.
In "America's Boardwalks", James
Lilliefors takes us on a journey along the edges of the country to
twelve of its most famous beach towns. Starting in the Northeast
with Coney Island, Asbury Park, Atlantic City, Wildwood, and Cape
May, we continue south to Rehoboth Beach; Ocean City, Maryland;
Virginia Beach; Myrtle Beach; and Daytona Beach. In California, we
explore the exotic scenes at Venice Beach and Santa Cruz.
Lilliefors traces each town's
history from the building of a boardwalk to what are frequently
ambitious plans to revitalize and redevelop today. In every case, he
shows how the boardwalk has been integral to the area's economic
growth, status, and appeal.
This richly documented and
illustrated tale, however, tells more than the story of the birth
and development of boardwalks. Weaving together observations and
conversations with business owners, planners, and strollers
themselves, Lilliefors reveals the vitality of the boardwalk as an
idea, rather than just as a place. Boardwalks, he argues, are living
monuments to American enterprise, a young country's founding dreams,
and its unwavering optimism.
Born at a time when the country was
busy rebuilding and reinventing itself as an industrial and economic
power, these lively seaside destinations seemed to herald a new life
of relaxation, recreation, and middle-class prosperity.
On the nation's first boardwalk in
Atlantic City, you could find everything from a "home of the
future," to diving horses, kangaroo boxing, and the world's largest
typewriter. With no admission gate, boardwalks were also a
thoroughly democratic idea, inviting visitors from all social and
economic groups to join the same parade.
Even today, these glittering
coastal hubs, with their always unique blends of people, sea spray,
shops, inventions, and oddities remain a last frontier - a testament
to the power of individuality in an increasingly homogenized world.
From Thrasher's French fries in
Ocean City to Mack's Pizza in Wildwood and Nathan's hot dogs in
Coney Island, people still visit these resorts for products and
pleasures that break the otherwise mundane stream of chain
restaurants and retailers. Evoking the spirit, tastes, smells, and
sounds that have become a beloved part of our nostalgia and that
continue to lure new generations, this book is a deserved tribute to
America's iconic seaside wonders.
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