Ocean City, Maryland Then & Now - A History Of The 204 Lots From The Town’s Original Plat
Future articles will trace the history of individual lots, from the original owner to the present day use and appearance.
The resort town of Ocean City, Maryland began as a parcel of fifty acres on Sinepuxent Beach, across from Hammock Point. It was bounded on the north and south by what are now North Division and South Division Streets, with the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Sinepuxent Bay on the west. A plat of the new town drawn up in 1875 laid out north-south thoroughfares beginning with Atlantic Avenue along the oceanfront (now the Boardwalk) and continuing west toward the bay with Baltimore, Philadelphia and St. Louis Avenues. The streets running east and west began with Division Street on the town's southern border, and progressed northward with the names of Eastern Shore counties ? Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset, Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline. The street along the northern border was unnamed at the time. The plat also marked off 204 building lots, numbered from 1 to 205 (number 8 was skipped for some unknown reason).
The fifty acre tract was conveyed by its owner Stephen Taber, a wealthy Long Island businessman, in three separate deeds formally issued in 1876. The first deed granted lot number 2 to the Atlantic Hotel Company, which had opened the Atlantic Hotel on the site a year earlier. It was the premier location in town ? a full city block front and center on the beach between Somerset and Wicomico Streets. The company also received the twelve building lots on the south side of Somerset Street. Taber's second deed was issued to the Wicomico & Pocomoke Railroad, which had established a rail link between Salisbury and Berlin in 1868 that was extended in 1874 to the western shore of Sinepuxent Bay. A private firm called the Ocean City Bridge Company built a wooden trestle bridge across the Bay in 1875 allowing the railroad to run its trains all the way into town to a depot on Baltimore Avenue. The railroad was given title to seventeen lots in the southwest corner of the Town demarcated by Division Street, Baltimore Avenue, Worcester Street and the Bay, as well as a right of way down the middle of Division Street and Baltimore Avenue. The third and final deed assigned all of the remaining lots to three trustees, Hillary R. Pitts, B. Jones Taylor and George W. Purnell, to sell and invest the proceeds as they saw fit.
A special meeting was held at the Atlantic Hotel in Ocean City on August 31, 1875 during which each of the Atlantic Hotel Company's 103 stockholders was allocated a lot in the new town. Lot numbers had been written on shotgun wads and placed in a jar. Lot numbers already set aside for hotels and the railroad were excluded. It also appears that the less desirable parcels closer to the bay side were also excluded. One by one, each stockholder drew a wad from the jar. Several large investors were allowed to draw twice. By the end of the meeting a total of 108 lots had been dispensed to the company's investors. Certificates of ownership were issued, which were formalized as property deeds once the purchase price of $100 had been paid.
The three trustees appointed by Stephen Taber and their successors sold only three of their sixty-six lots between 1876 and 1890. Part of a fourth lot was given to the U.S. government in 1878 as a site for a life-saving station. A court decree issued in August 1894 stemming from a lawsuit brought by certain of Taber's heirs ordered the remaining properties to be sold. Public auctions of these properties conducted in 1895 and 1896 concluded the distribution of the original 204 lots.
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