The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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Part One: The “Scott House”
by Gordon Katz
May 2017

The former “Scott House” as it appeared in 1966, viewed from Caroline Street. Ocean City Museum Society archives.
The original plat of Ocean City drawn up in 1875 laid out 204 building lots from the beach to the bay between what are now South Division Street and North Division Street. Stephen Taber, the wealthy Long Island businessman who owned over 1,500 acres on the Worcester County coast, deeded the roughly fifty-acre parcel to three trustees who were commissioned to dispose of the lots and reinvest the proceeds as they saw fit. Three of those lots (numbers 1, 2 and 3) were actually entire city blocks facing on the Atlantic Ocean, intended for the construction of hotels that would spur development in the fledgling resort. The Atlantic Hotel Company opened the “Atlantic Hotel” on lot 2, between Wicomico Street and Somerset Street, on July 4, 1875. The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad opened the “Excursion House” on lot 1, between South Division Street and Worcester Street, in July 1877. However, no developer emerged for lot 3, the northernmost hotel lot/block, located between Caroline Street and North Division Street.

In 1878 the trustees conveyed a 5,000 square foot portion of lot 3, situated on the beach on the north side of Caroline Street, to the federal government for the purpose of establishing a life-saving station. The station commenced operations on December 25 of that year. The remainder of lot 3 remained unsold until 1889, when John T. Ensor, an attorney and real estate investor from Towson, Maryland, acquired the rest of the block for $200.
Part One: The “Scott House”

Edward M. Scott, the local railroad agent for the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railway, bought a piece of lot 3 from John T. Ensor in 1902. He paid $350 for a lot that fronted fifty feet on the east side of Baltimore Avenue and 100 feet along the north side of Caroline Street. Edward had moved to Ocean City from Berlin around 1896 at the age of 22, working as a telegraph operator at the railroad station on Philadelphia Avenue. His name appears in a newspaper account published on January 10, 1898 as one of the guests at “the supper given by the Evergreen Social Club, representing the society of Ocean City”, held at the Oriental Hotel on the southeast corner of Worcester Street and Baltimore Avenue. Among the other guests at the supper were Carrie (Caroline) and Tillie (Elizabeth Matilda) Trimper, two of Daniel Trimper’s daughters. A romance blossomed between Edward and Tillie, and they married in June 1899.

The young couple moved into an apartment on the upper floor of Gilbert Cropper’s bath house (also known as the “Hotel De Cropper”), located on the northwest corner of South Division Street and the Boardwalk. On April 11, 1901 around 11:45 p.m., a fire broke out in the bath house. The Baltimore Sun reported on April 12 that “[it] was with difficulty that the family of E. M. Scott, who lived in the suite of rooms over the bathrooms, escaped with their lives. They escaped in their night clothes.” The fire, which was blamed on an arsonist, wiped out the buildings situated along the Boardwalk between South Division Street and Worcester Street. Edward and Tillie lost all of their possessions, a loss valued at “about $500”.

Edward and Tillie bought a house on the south side of Caroline Street west of Baltimore Avenue (lot 76) in 1903, and acquired the adjoining lot (lot 79) the following year. In 1905 they began construction of a new two-story dwelling (a third story was added in the 1920s) on the parcel on lot 3 that Edward had purchased in 1902. Edward and Tillie moved in later that year after selling their house on Caroline Street to Tillie’s brother, Daniel Trimper, Jr.
Edward was actively involved throughout his life in local civic and business affairs. He served as the clerk to the City Council from 1904 to 1906 and as Ocean City’s postmaster from 1905 to 1914. While serving as postmaster, he hosted the fifth annual convention of the Maryland State League of Postmasters at Daniel Trimper’s Windsor Theatre on the Boardwalk from July 24 – 26, 1912. Before leaving town, the convention delegates were “invited to take a ride on Trimper's new $15,000 carousel.” In 1909 Edward joined the board of the Exchange and Savings Bank of Berlin, founded in 1899 by Orlando Harrison and others, a position he held for nearly thirty years.
A new business opportunity presented itself to Edward in 1910. On February 27 of that year, a fire destroyed the Ocean City Cold Storage Company ice plant, owned by Thomas J. Cropper and located on Philadelphia Avenue between South 2nd Street and South 3rd Street (now covered by the inlet). On March 4, Edward, along with Charles Ludlam, Edwin J. Thomas and Joseph Schaefer, organized the “Ocean City Ice and Fuel Company”. The company acquired parts of several lots along the south side of Somerset Street between Philadelphia Avenue and St. Louis Avenue from Orlando Harrison, William B. S. Powell and Cornelius Coffin on which a new ice plant was erected. The company purchased a second site on Philadelphia Avenue and South 5th Street in June 1933, but the inlet formed by the historic storm of August 22 – 23, 1933 abruptly ended that expansion plan. The plant on Somerset Street remained in operation until 1988.

Another view of the former “Scott House” taken in 1966. Ocean City Museum Society archives.
Edward was elected Mayor of Ocean City in 1918, handily defeating his opponent Clifford P. Cropper by a vote of 145 to 37. Two events highlighted his single two-year term in office. One was the formal opening of the first automobile bridge crossing Sinepuxent Bay into Ocean City at Worcester Street on July 4, 1919. The other was the devastating storm of February 2 – 4, 1920 that damaged nearly every structure in Ocean City but provided a stimulus to the declining fishing industry by creating a natural inlet four miles south of town that remained navigable throughout most of the 1920s. Later on in 1939 he was one of the founders of the Worcester County Humane Society.

Tillie Scott died on July 4, 1933. Her interest in the Trimper family’s amusement business passed to Edward and his two sons, Edward, Jr., and William. The family had considered selling their business after Daniel Trimper passed away on March 18, 1929 in order to pay the estate taxes, but decided against it. On February 29, 1936, Edward and his sons and Tillie’s siblings Margaret, Carrie, Katherine, Daniel, Jr., and Granville conveyed their respective interests in the family business, which included all of the properties along the Boardwalk from South 1st Street to South Division Street, to the newly formed Windsor Resort, Inc.
Having spent nearly all of his adult life in Ocean City, Edward was the source of many stories about the early days of the Maryland resort. In an article published in The Baltimore Sun on July 5, 1953, Edward mused about the railroad, his long-time employer, and its eventual demise.

“It was the railroad that made Ocean City. There was no other way for considerable numbers of people to get there in those days …
“But when you look at things in a long way the era of the railroad was pretty short. It started in [1875] and wound up in 1933 – a period of [58] years. Of course, the railroad wanted to discontinue service long before the hurricane of ’33 washed away the bridge. Why, I sold only two tickets to passengers in May of 1933, and in June of that year, a vacation month, I sold just five tickets.
“So you can see what damage the automobile did to the railroad – but, on the other hand, what a great amount of good it did to Ocean City. The railroad used to bring from 2,000 to 5,000 people on an excursion. Now we sometimes have 80,000 to 90,000 people in Ocean City – all come by automobile. Time sure does move and it creeps up on you before you know it.”

In January 1955, for the second time in his life, Edward was chased from his home by a fire. As reported in The Salisbury Times on January 22, 1955, “Elderly Edward M. Scott was forced to leave his sick bed yesterday when a furnace fire threatened his home. Firemen reported the fire started in the oil furnace on the ground floor of the 3-1/2 story house. The fire was brought under control shortly after the 6:30 a.m. alarm.
“Smoke and water damage was reported. The 12-room home is located at the corner of Baltimore Ave. and Caroline St., about three blocks from the firehouse. Mr. Scott, about 80, a partner in the Ocean City Ice and Coal Co., is now staying with a son, William H. Scott, Ocean City attorney. A fireman said Mr. Scott had been ill with a cold and his other son, Edward, Jr., of Milton, had been staying with him. The younger Mr. Scott had gotten up about 4:30 a.m. to give his father medicine. Some time later he detected smoke in the home.”

Edward died on October 14, 1956. Oddly, he did not leave a will and his estate descended to his two sons as heirs at law. William Scott and his late brother Edward’s widow sold the “Scott House” to John Dale Showell, III, in 1964. Mr. Showell converted the former residence into commercial units on the first floor and apartments on the upper floors. In the mid-1960s, Ron-Jon Surf Shop and a bicycle rental shop occupied the first floor, while George and Sue Hurley rented the upper floors for use as a boarding house that they called the “Sea Spray”.

By 1970 Edward G. Post had taken over the former Sea Spray rooms. Post, a Korean War veteran, offered summer rentals at $5 a night under the name “Posty’s Guest House”, catering principally to late teen and early 20s male residents. The guest house did not enjoy a good reputation. One nearby resident recalled, “Ed Post ran a real flop house called Posty’s. Cops were always there; fights broke out. [It was] like a TV show. He had folks sleeping on the porch and they would urinate right out on Baltimore Avenue.”

View of the northeast corner of Caroline Street and Baltimore Avenue in 2017, showing the Sunsations building erected in 2003. Photo credit: Sandy Hurley.
Mr. Showell sold the building and the westerly portion of the lot (fronting 64 ½ feet on Caroline Street) to Edward Post and a 78-year-old widow named Lillian Eva Toews in 1972, taking back a mortgage of $50,000. The mortgage went into default, and the property was sold at a public auction held on February 28, 1976 for $40,000 to two real estate developers, Walton K. Musselman and Dwayne K. Musselman. The new owners hired George Hurley’s construction company to raze the old building. As George recalled, “The buyer contracted with me to remove the top three floors, install a new roof on the basement, and convert it into an Italian restaurant, which he sold to Joe Roma from Little Italy in Baltimore.” “Joe Roma” was Joseph Mureddu, the owner of the Roma Spaghetti House in Baltimore, who bought the nearly completed structure in 1977. George continued, “Joe ran it for a few years, sold it and moved to Florida. The restaurant did not make money. He finished his contract with me by giving us free Italian dinners frequently (we lived next door)!”

Allen Sklar opened a bicycle rental shop called “Bike World” in 1978 in the building situated on the easterly portion of the original 5,000-square foot lot. Mr. Showell sold the parcel to Mr. Sklar in 1988 for $75,000. The present structure housing the Bike World operation was built in 1989.

New owners opened “Joclyn’s” in the former Roma Restaurant in 1982. The new restaurant, along with two other ventures that opened about the same time, Updegraff’s on Wicomico Street and Holt’s Landing on Philadelphia Avenue next to the Coast Guard station, was hailed as a sign of renewal in downtown Ocean City. An article in The Daily Times published on May 28, 1982 noted that Joclyn’s in particular stood out because “[its] sharply sloping roof, dominated by a central glass panel, catches the eye if you drive into town over the Route 50 bridge.” The eclectic menu changed throughout the season, but the steady beat of reggae music did not. It quickly became a popular hang-out for the college-age crowd.

But Joclyn’s lasted only three seasons. Owner John Yarnall sold the property in 1985 for $220,000 to the Fager and Stansell Partnership, which converted the restaurant building into “Tio Gringo’s Downtown”. A couple of years later, “O. C. Cheers” replaced Tio Gringo’s. Following two more changes in ownership in 1991 and 1997, a coffeehouse called “Common Grounds” took over the space.

Sunsations Realty bought the lot and building in 2001, along with the adjoining lot and building on the south side of North Division Street. Both buildings were torn down, and a new Sunsations store was erected in 2003 spanning both lots.

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