Maryland’s Only Sea Side Resort
By Suzanne B. Hurley
Ocean City was always intended to be a resort town. In 1875, the founders, who were wealthy gentlemen from the Eastern Shore, Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia, deemed that this little spit of land was worthy of development. The pristine beaches, gentle surf and moderate temperature were prime factors for selecting this island to build a grand hotel and surrounding small village. The men who built the first hotel on the island in 1875 were far sighted enough and rich enough to extend the railway that they owned across the Sinepuxent Bay to the front door of the newly built Atlantic Hotel. The hotel thrived for several years, but later had to declare bankruptcy because the owners were housing more family free loaders than paying guests. Without the Atlantic Hotel in service, the town stood still for the next ten to fifteen years with very little growth occurring. It was not until 1891 when the Sinepuxent Beach Corporation took over the ownership of the Atlantic Hotel that the town began to flourish.
Well to do families and influential politicians from the large cities built cottages amongst the hotels and rooming houses. Ocean City's famous boardwalk promenade was extended, and day excursions to the resort became extremely popular. Many families and widows, in particular, relocated to the beach to start fledgling businesses, all catering to a new rush of vacationers. These women are credited with building and running the hotels, while the men made their living by fishing or working on the railroad. .
Although commercial pound fishing was the economic backbone of the town, it was labor-intensive work. Fishermen launched and recovered their boats directly into and from the surf, as there was no quiet harbor or waterway to the ocean.
During August of 1933, a hurricane of great magnitude hit the East Coast. Although deemed a great disaster, it would prove to be one of the most significant happenings in Ocean City's history. It created an inlet, a new pathway to the sea. Shortly after the storm, sport fishermen discovered that the migration path of the elusive white marlin was just a few miles off shore and that this new inlet was the perfect access to this highly prized sport fish. Finally, the economics of the area was flourishing. Ocean City would soon become what it is today: the White Marlin Capital of the World.
Up until the mid-1950s, Fifteenth Street was considered to be the northern edge of the town. Anything north of that was considered wasteland and few investors ventured onto that section of the beach; though now they all wish they had.
With the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952, the Eastern Shore and Ocean City were no longer considered remote locations. Vacationers flocked to the beach, now just several hours away from Baltimore, Washington and Pennsylvania. Post World War II brought about many changes. The vacationing public now preferred motels and apartment houses to hotels, and the town scrambled to provide such accommodations. The town annexed up to 41st Street, and extended the boardwalk to 15th Street to provide for the rush of people flocking to Ocean City' beaches.
Once again, a magnificent storm changed Ocean City's history. The March Storm of 1962 destroyed many of the buildings north of 15th Street and changed the lay of the land to a great degree. Land values plummeted and there was much to-do concerning Ocean City's future. Shortly thereafter, real estate developers moved in, purchased the land for a song and persuaded the city to annex again, this time to the Delaware line. The new word "condominimize" took hold. Since that time, Ocean City has continued to prosper and its growth has been phenomenal. Today millions of people visit the town each year, a far cry from the hundred or so that once stayed at Ocean City's first hotel during the Summer of 1875.