Whenever I played Monopoly as a kid, I used to love imagining what the game’s city would look like in real life. I remember thinking of Mediterranean and Baltic as being these short, run-down alleys ala West Side Story, while Pennsylvania Ave and the other greens as Fifth Avenue-style apartment buildings.
What I didn’t know back then was that the properties in Monopoly were in fact named after the streets of Atlantic City. Monopoly itself has a long and complicated history, but the addition of Atlantic City-based street names can be traced to one Ruth Hoskins. Hoskins had learned a version of the game in Indianapolis, and upon moving to Atlantic City in 1929, made her own copy from scratch naming properties after streets where her friends lived.
This past weekend, I was driving through south Jersey, and decided to make a quick detour through Atlantic City to see what the Monopoly board looks like in real life. Everyone have their tokens picked out?
Mediterranean Ave: Running northeast through the city, Mediterranean Ave mostly consists of low-rise residential properties. On Hoskins’s original board, this was named Arctic Avenue; it was later changed to Mediterranean by Charles Darrow (once popularly considered to be Monopoly’s sole creator) because he liked the warmer feel of the name.
Baltic Ave: Who would expect to find a J. Crew on the corner of Baltic Ave?? Thought it might be second cheapest property on the board, Baltic today actually has a thriving strip of retail stores right as you enter the city.
Oriental Ave: Running a scant 10 blocks in the southeastern-most corner of Atlantic City, the selling point is probably the Revel casino at the south end, but I personally like this strip of row beach houses. The one on the end even has an over-sized Monopoly deed card hanging above the porch!
Vermont Ave: The centerpiece of Vermont is the Absecon Light, the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey at 171 feet. Built in 1854, it was officially deactivated in 1933 but still lights up every night. You can now tour a recreation of the keeper’s house, as well as climb to the top of the lighthouse (only 228 steps!).
Connecticut Ave: The most expensive of the light-blue properties runs straight to the boardwalk and nets you the new Revel Casino, which opened in 2012.
St. Charles Place: St. Charles Place is gone forever, built over by the Mardis Gras-themed Showboat Casino in 1987.
States Ave: Just a single block of States Ave remains today, running along the west side of the Showboat Casino.
Virginia Ave: Lined by mostly new residential developments, Virginia Ave ends directly at the Trump Taj Mahal.
St. James Place: St. James Place runs for just a few short blocks, but has some really classic buildings along it that feel like Atlantic City of old. Fun fact: St. James Place is considered one of the most valuable properties in Monopoly (the oranges are the most landed-on group in the game).
Tennessee Ave: Tennessee Ave runs pretty much the whole length of Atlantic City. Property owners can count a Super 8 and the NJ Casino Control Commission among their possessions!
New York Ave: The plethora of vacant lots waiting for development is pretty depressing, especially when you consider that a lot of original buildings were probably torn down to make way.
Kentucky Ave: Lots of parking here for the historic Madison Hotel, which dates to 1929. Closed since 2006 (yes, I would love to explore those empty halls), it was purchased in 2013 for $4 million with plans to reopen.
Indiana Ave: Indiana Ave nets you the backside of Bally’s.
Illinois Avenue: Illinois Ave still exists but was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in the 1980s. The deed holder of Illinois can count one of the most beautiful buildings in Atlantic City among his properties: the Carnegie Library. Founded in 1903, it was used as a public library until 1984, when the library moved to a larger space. The building was abandoned in 1994 and remained that way for seven years. It was finally renovated in 2001 and is now used by Stockton College as a library center.
Atlantic Ave: As far as I can tell, Atlantic Ave is the longest street on the island, running over 8 miles from Atlantic City to Longport. It’s also one of the most commercial heavy, quite a steal for only $260!
Ventnor Ave: And now for something completely different…Ventnor Ave runs east-west into Ventnor City, the next town southwest of AC. It’s mostly residential, and gets nicer as you head west.
Marvin Gardens: Marvin Gardens holds a few unique distinctions. First, it’s the only property not located in Atlantic City (it’s actually in Margate City). Two, it’s misspelled (the real Marven Gardens was a combination of the names Ventnor and Margate). Third, it’s easily the most beautiful property on the Monopoly board. A housing community founded in the 1920s and 1930s, the homes and gardens have been immaculately maintained and are literally picture perfect. Seriously, next time you’re in Atlantic City, make it a point to drive a few miles down the road to check out this dead ringer for the town in the Truman Show. Wow.
Pacific Ave: Pacific Ave is the closest thoroughfare running parallel to the boardwalk and thus has a lot of casinos along it (including Caesar’s). If you owned Pacific Ave in real life, you’d be sitting pretty.
No. Carolina Ave: Sure, No. Carolina Ave gets you the Resorts casino, but I like this old brick building up the way, with a great wrap-around copper awning.
Pennsylvania Avenue: It’s the third-most expensive property in the game, but Pennsylvania Ave is mainly the backside of Resorts. Hey, you get a bus depot!
Park Place: Park Place was indeed named for a park, but that park is now gone, built over by Bally’s. Today, Park Place is a small stub of a road adjacent to Brighton Park. Fun fact: Park Place is one of the least landed-on spots in the game.
Boardwalk: Perhaps the most famous board game space in history, the real Atlantic City boardwalk was the first of its kind in the United States, having opened in 1870. While much has been modernized, bits of the past – like wooden planks and push carts – offer a wisp of what once was. A plaque commemorating Charles Darrow can be found at the corner of Park Place & Boardwalk, which do intersect.
And that brings us back to GO.
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