Vera Coking’s old three-story boarding home in Atlantic City was reduced to a pile of rubble Thursday. The white house at 127 S. Columbia Place was at the center of a long-running controversy that pitted Coking against casino developers Donald Trump and Bob Guccione.
Coking, an elderly widow now living in a retirement home in California, recently sold the house to billionaire investor Carl Icahn for $583,000. Icahn decided to demolish the house, but has not yet revealed his plans for the property.
For years, Coking was seen as a local hero for resisting attempts by Trump and Guccione to buy her home. In the late 1990s, Trump had wanted the property for an expansion of the now-closed Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino across the street.
Guccione, publisher of Penthouse magazine, was unsuccessful in buying out Coking in the 1970s, so he began building the steel superstructure of his proposed casino around her.
Guccione halted construction on his Penthouse casino after running out of money in 1980, but the rusting steel frame of the half-completed project surrounded Coking's home. Finally, the old Penthouse hulk was torn down by Trump in 1993 after he bought the Guccione property for Trump Plaza’s proposed expansion.
Coking’s house had been overshadowed by Trump Plaza’s soaring hotel tower for decades. Now, with the house gone and Trump Plaza closed, a victim of Atlantic City’s casino crisis, Columbia Place has become ghostly quiet. However, its location close to the beach and Boardwalk make the property a prime site for redevelopment.