Friday, June 1, 2012

Begin Route 40

US Route 40 begins at the World War Monument at Albany Blvd. and Ventnor Ave. in Atlantic City

When George Stewart set out in the early 1950s to drive and photograph US Rt. 40, he had to decide where the eastern terminus was. He selected the traffic circle around the World War Monument were Albany Boulevard (US 40) crosses Ventnor Avenue.

      In keeping with its utilitarian and non-ceremonial nature, U. S. 40 has no monument or even signpost to mark its beginning. It merely emerges from the streets of Atlantic City. This is unusual. Most federal highways come to a definitely and clearly marked terminus, but in Atlantic City the westbound motorist must merely, so to speak, pick up the trail by sighting a seemingly chance marker along the street.
     As a practical starting-point, we can take the traffic-circle surrounding the World War Memorial. From this point westward, for nearly three thousand miles, the route is posted continuously with the shield-shaped markers of the federal highway system. Here at the traffic circle U. S. 40 is only a quarter mile from the ocean, though actual view of it is cut off by the intervening Atlantic City board-walk.

Stewart took a photo looking west from the top of the President Hotel, which no longer exists.

Discussing the War Memorial, he says "The only building to have architectural pretensions is the War Memorial itself, an open circular cella with surrounding peristyle of Doric columns. Through one of its four doors may be seen the dark form of the heroic bronze Liberty-in-distress, about which the New Jersey W.P.A. Guide comments with characteristic acidity : 'Her distress is the one matter about which there is no question whatsoever.'"

Originally designed by Carerra and Hastings as part of a proposed 1907 plan for the renewal of Atlantic City, the War Monument was erected in 1922 to honor the dead from the First World War.  "Liberty in Distress," the statue by MacMonnies, was added in 1928.

The city fathers were later shocked to find that the sculpture was not original but a smaller copy of MacMonnie's earlier work "France Aroused."  This old postcard shows the monument before the statue was added.

The 1939 WPA Guide which Stewart quotes describes the1922 monument this way:
The WORLD WAR MEMORIAL, corner Albany and Ventnor Aves., is an open circular cella, with surrounding peristyle of Doric columns, designed by Carrere and Hastings. The marble walls are pierced with four doors; in the center is a heroic bronze monument, Liberty in Distress. The work of Frederick W. MacMonnies, it is a reproduction of the sculptor's work at Varredes, France, commemorating the first battle of the Marne. Liberty, naked but for knotted garments hanging from her elbows, her feet mired in writhen corpses, supports an inert male figure across her right thigh. Her distress is the one matter about which there is no question whatever.

The monument is no longer really a traffic circle but part of a complex intersection.

These signs at the intersection constitute the easternmost mention of US 40.

But I'd pick a spot closer to the beach to be the beginning of Rt. 40, perhaps where Albany Blvd. meets Atlantic and Pacific Avenues.

Here we find the Knife and Fork Restaurant. As the sign says, the Knife and Fork was established in 1912.

Ristine and Pergament say this about the Knife and Fork, "Established as an exclusive men's club in 1912, it later became a restaurant. It was well known for the many famous entertainers and celebrities who dined there when in town." 

The men's club, under the protection of Nucky Johnson, managed to defy the Prohibition laws until a police raid in the 1920's destroyed the club. The bar was removed and a restaurant was opened in the distinctive Flemish building in 1926 by the Latz family who lived for years in upstairs rooms. It was extensively renovated by the Dougherty family in 2005.

This New Jersey map also chooses the Knife and Fork to mark the beginning (or end) of US 40.

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