Abandoned hotel in Atlantic City now demolished


Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey
Date added: May 31, 2023 Categories:
Main facade looking southwest (1977)

Due to a disastrous fire (ca.1973) which destroyed the main office, official records of the Morton Hotel are lost. Therefore, to reconstruct the hotel's history, it was necessary to consult various former owners and their relatives.

Mrs. Mamie B. Haines operated a guest house on the site from 1898 to 1918, which was named for John Morton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is asserted that Mrs. Haines was a direct descendent. In 1918 her daughter Mary married Ezra Bell, and the guest house was taken over by a partnership that he apparently headed. An early decision of the partnership was to move the guest building to the rear of the property and erect the present brick structure. Although the structure appears to have been built in 2 sections at different times, it was in fact built as one piece, in 1923. The architect was William Macey Stanton. In 1927 a swimming pool was added. The partnership was quite active in the business and social life of Atlantic City. Ezra Bell helped organize the Miss America Pageant and served on the committee for a number of years.

Broadcasting on Atlantic City's first radio station WPG was done from the Morton Hotel. From time to time, Bell acted as radio commentator for musical events. During World War II the hotel became a U.S. Coast Guard code training school as well as a local base of operations.

After the war a lecture hall used by the Coast Guard was converted into a theater in which pre-Broadway productions, such as "Life with Father" and "Tea and Sympathy", were presented.

Because of its proximity to the Steel Pier, the Morton provided accommodations for a number of celebrities who entertained there, notably Eddie Duchin, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, as well as the Beach Boys. It has also been used by many of the participants in the Miss America contests over the years.

Building Description

The Morton Hotel is an 8-story brick and limestone structure facing Virginia Avenue, with an 11-bay main section and a 5-bay eastern section. The hotel is entered in the center of the main section through a wide lobby with a marble stair at the rear leading to the second-story piano nobile. This second-story area has an essentially open plan with a large east and a large west lounge, together with a frontal sunporch gallery set within a colonnade that runs the entire length of both sections of the building. The east lounge has an essentially Georgian character in which the ceiling is crisscrossed by heavy structural members, decorated by Adamesque Doric friezes with superimposed urns and festoons. Structural pillars and walls are decorated with Corinthian pilasters. Walls have raised paneling and an Adams fireplace with double freestanding columns and an over-mantle. The west lounge has a heavy beam ceiling with sub-joists, both of which have elaborate plaster cast panels on the bottom faccia with ship's wheels and other nautical motifs. Circular plaster medallions adorn the frieze, each of which contains a rigged ship or a seagull, or other motifs.

The frontal sun porch-arcade, which pauses briefly between the two sections of the building, has a glass garage-type door mounted in each arch. When the doors are retracted, the arcade is completely open to the air.

Above the piano nobile is contained the bulk of the hotel's private rooms. At one time there was a rear wing with additional rooms, but this burned, taking with it some of the rear wall of the building. The structure is, however, sound.

The main facade is articulated with classical motifs, sparingly used, with tile work garnishing. The 3rd, 4th and 5th floor rooms of the west section are formed in 3 sided bay, window projections, which run the full 3 floors. This configuration rests upon a jutty which is supported by a series of half groin vaults incorporated into the sun porch-arcade. The structural lines, the groins and the arches are picked out with colored tile fretwork. Each spandrel has a colored inscribed plaque with the letter "M."

The bay window projections terminate in a heavy entablature which caps the entire 5th floor. The entablature breaks briefly over the middle 3 bays of the eastern portion.

A select 4 of the 6th-floor windows of the large west portion are treated with aedicule motifs which feature Persian columns and tile work panels with sunburst motifs. The entire west portion is capped by a heavy medallion cornice with the 8th floor articulated as a parapet. Over on the east portion, the 8th floor is detached from the west portion and articulated as a separate 3-bay pavilion with a central Palladian window motif, capped by a pediment. The Palladian window arch is filled in with carved foliage.

Most of the bays on the upper floors have double sash-mounted windows, painted white.

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey Main facade looking southwest (1977)
Main facade looking southwest (1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey Main lounge (1977)
Main lounge (1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey Detail of decorative tile (1977)
Detail of decorative tile (1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey  (1977)
(1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey  (1977)
(1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey  (1977)
(1977)

Hotel Morton, Atlantic City New Jersey  (1977)
(1977)