Did A.C. Blow Its Chance at a World Class Museum?

Nonagenarian art dealer/raconteur/environmentalist/author Reese Palley, as Philly Mag described him two years ago, penned an interesting piece, published in Newsworks about what might have been a massive missed opportunity for Atlantic City.

Sometime in the 1960s, I was at my desk in my shop at the old Marlboro-Blenheim Hotel when the phone rang. “Good morning, Reese, this is Louis Kahn,” I remember the voice saying. Louis Kahn, the legendary Philadelphia architect — I was all ears. Kahn went on to tell me that he had accumulated a collection of contemporary art and had been looking for a place to house it after his death. He said he wanted to design a museum to house the collection and would raise the money to build it in Atlantic City. All the city would have to do was provide a site.

Palley got to work, meeting with Atlantic City powerbroker State Sen. Frank S. “Hap” Farley to lobby for the project. No-brainer, right?

Having made my pitch, not really thinking that a pitch was needed, I leaned back and waited for Farley to speak. When he did, what I heard stunned me. No, Farley said, he didn’t like the idea at all. He did not want any new, potentially disruptive force to come into his town and threaten his political control.

Who knows if all these details are 100% correct? We’ll probably never know. As Palley himself writes, “it is a story few know, perhaps no one still alive other than I.” And raconteurs, of course, like to raconte. Still, assuming this really did go down…damn.

*50 years ago