Alexander Boardman, a conductor on the Camden & Atlantic Railroad, was tired of cleaning up the sand brought into the cars by passengers who spent the day walking along the ocean in Atlantic City. He had a great idea. In addition to his day job, he also owned the Ocean House, and along with Jacob Keim, owner of the Chester County House, thought a wooden walkway along the beach on top of the beach would prevent their carpets from being worn away by the sand.
The walk was constructed of 8-inch-wide boards set on crossbars and placed on supports in the sand. Each section was about twelve feet long so it could be taken up in the fall and stored during the winter. The boardwalk was dedicated on June 26, 1870, with a celebration and parade down Atlantic Avenue to the new walk along the ocean.
By 1880 when the second boardwalk was built, property owners had persuaded the City Council to relax its rules and the walk was lined with all types of buildings. These stores and bathhouses were mostly built on pilings so water could flow under them without causing damage.
Within three years, the boardwalk became the major attraction of the city. More than one hundred businesses were located along the boards.
A hurricane in 1889 blew away most of the stores and the boardwalk along with them. But the storm gave the City Council a new focus with the ability to pass a law giving the city control of how many and what kind of shops could be built along the new walkway.
The new boardwalk, built the following spring, was nearly 4 miles long with railings on both sides. Piers extended from the boardwalk out over the water by 1890. These piers contained picnic areas, amusement rides and music concerts.
The fifth boardwalk was constructed in 1896, which, given some minor adjustments, is the Boardwalk of today. The Boardwalk had another virtue, it separated the hotels from the beach and amusement piers.
"Walking the boards" is still a favorite activity of locals and visitors alike.