Traymore Hotel, Atlantic City New Jersey
The Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City was built in 1898 and experienced two additional phases of construction which was completed in 1915. It became a local landmark soon after, and was called one of the nation's most elegant resorts. The hotel closed its doors for the final time in 1971. After a lengthy court battle to preserve the hotel, it was demolished on May 26th, 1972.
The Traymore Hotel was the culmination of architect William Price's individual search for an appropriate style for the relatively new material of reinforced concrete. Where, in earlier buildings, such as the Jacob Reed's sons store in Philadelphia, or the Blenheim Hotel in Atlantic City, he had utilized revival styles (Byzantine in the first, Pan-American fair styles in the second) in the Traymore there were simple surrounding of spaces by massive walls which were articulated to indicate structure and space in a complex fusion of form and function as interdependent qualities.
In terms of the development of the American architecture of the 1910s and 1920s, Price's impact is especially to be seen, notably as the developer of forms which are the origins of the styles commonly termed Art Deco, which seems to have developed in Price's shop in the 1900's and achieved its most public form in the Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City and the great Chicago Freight Terminal for the Pennsylvania Railroad. That impact is to be seen in the city architecture of the eastern half of the United States, for example Ritter and Shay's Drake Hotel, and Number One, East Penn Center in Philadelphia, and Hood's American Radiator Company Building in New York City.
The Traymore Hotel in Atlantic City was the product of seventeen years of work by William L. Price (1881-1916), the architect of the building. His first work for the White family (the original owners) entailed the enlargement of the original wooden hotel on the same site that the Traymore occupied.
A second phase of work was begun eight years later in the winter of 1906-1907, and comprised the seaward most block of the hotel. It was erected in the relatively new material of reinforced concrete with hollow tile curtain walls, and was capped by a huge balcony and dome marking the public spaces of this new wing. The basic articulation and form took their cues from the wooden hotel which remained on the site to the northwest, but its cruciform shape and obvious incompleteness indicates that the final shaped plan was already worked out to the extant that it affected this design stage.
The third phase of construction took place at the end of the 1914 hotel season, and continued through the following year, with work being fairly well completed by the following spring. That stage left the building in its final state of completion, although there evidently survive plans by Price to triple the size of the hotel from its final number (638) of rooms. The building stretched along Illinois Avenue for some five hundred feet, filling much of its available site, with its mass punctuated and organized by three progressively larger pavilions. The skyline is given a consistency by the paired central domes, which are led up to by great setbacks. The surfaces were organized by great banks of bay windows which give vertical accents while at the same time providing views of the sea to almost every room in the building.
The entire building was pulled together by the great projecting cornice-like balcony. In these basic external details little was changed from the original.
Certain areas of the exterior were changed, notably in the quality of the building's surface which was originally a warm mixture of cement and light brick that was organized and articulated by great bands and patterns of handmade Mercer tile. In terms of their use to define structure and form, the use of those tiles can be considerable important. Unfortunately the surface was painted over, considerably lightening much of the original design's forceful visual appeal.
It is in the interior that many of the most important motifs were to be found, including Price's unhesitating exposure of the concrete skeleton and the innovation and challenging decorative forms which he developed to express the new concrete material.