Albany is still the capital of New York State. It was once one of the largest “inland ports” in the world sitting near the place where the Hudson River meets the Erie Canal. This helped it become a major center for finished lumber and iron works. Perhaps because of the influence of the politicians who worked in the city, several universities and colleges were built there. The city’s manufacturing industry helped the population to rise to 134,000 in 1950. it is now under 95,000. The higher education institutions in the region have begun to help Albany become a regional center for information technology and the biotechnology industries, but these are not large enough to offset declines in the city’s fortunes which began in the 1960s.
8. Atlantic City
Now known mostly for its gambling business, Atlantic City was dying before legislation allowed gaming companies to operate there. The city was created as a tourist location in the 1880s and a number of massive hotels were built there. Atlantic City’s hospitality industry also made it a favorite for trade shows and conventions. The Democratic National Convention was held there in 1964. The city’s appeal to tourists was damaged primarily by two things: the first was the availability of inexpensive air travel to southern resorts areas like Florida. Vacationers could fly from New York to Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and Palm Beach in less time than it took to drive to Atlantic City. The second,the rise of Las Vegas as the gaming capital of the world, made it the preferred destination for many conventions. Atlantic City got into the gambling industry in 1978–too late.
This Pennsylvania city had two advantages in the middle of the last century. It was well located for railroads that moved freight from the Midwest through Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the Eastern seaboard. Its proximity to iron ore made it a major manufacturing center and refiner much like Bethlehem to its east and Pittsburgh to its west. Like many other Northeastern manufacturing cities, Allentown watched its major product, in this case steel, being produced in greater and greater volumes and at lower prices in Japan.
This Texas city was one of the largest ports in the US a hundred years ago. It was also the location of one of the greatest natural disasters in American history. In 1900, a hurricane killed between 6,000 and 8,000 people. In the decades after the hurricane, Galveston became a major tourist center due to its location on the Gulf and proximity to several larger Texas cities. Galveston was also a major military recruitment center during WWII. The cause of Galveston’s demise is unique. It had become something of the Sodom and Gomorrah of the southern US. There was a large gambling industry there, some of it illegal, which was controlled by criminals. In the late 1950s,Texas state authorities successfully attacked local organized crime. The regulated tourist trade could not replace the illegal business. Galveston’s port and hospitality industries had begun to improve, but where trampled by the effects of Hurricane Ike in 2008. The event destroyed a large part of the city’s tax base, and set back the tourism industry once again.
Douglas A. McIntyre