The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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"The Taylor House"
by Gordon E. Katz
October 2016

The Talbot Inn, circa 1924. Note the two staircases and columns on the wraparound porch. Ocean City Museum Society archives.
The building on the northwest corner of Talbot Street and Baltimore Avenue (lot 54 on the 1875 plat of Ocean City), usually referred to as “The Taylor House”, is one of the more visually striking structures in the downtown area of Ocean City. Paul Touart, the noted architectural historian, described the building in 1990 as “the largest and most elaborate of the Queen Anne style dwellings to remain in Ocean City. Built during the early twentieth century, the rambling frame house is distinguished by a corner tower, decorative fish-scale shingles, and a wraparound porch. Originally built with columns and two stairs, the porch has been enclosed with a series of six-over-six sash windows … [The] Taylor House is one of the best preserved of a small number of surviving Queen Anne dwellings in town.”

S. M. Huling, one of the investors in the Atlantic Hotel Company, drew lot 54 at the special stockholders’ meeting held at the Atlantic Hotel on July 31, 1875. We don’t know anything about Mr. Huling, and there is no record of this lot being titled in his name. The only documentation for his ownership of the lot is found in the land records in 1899, when Emory E. Bell, Collector of State and County Taxes, sold the lot at a public auction to George B. Bishop and Oliver D. Collins to recover the taxes Huling had failed to pay for the tax year 1896. Bishop conveyed his half-interest to Collins, who in turn sold the lot to Robert C. Quillin, the owner of the Brighton Hotel, located three lots west of lot 54 on the north side of Talbot Street, for $137.50.

Robert Quillin may have been planning to build another hotel on lot 54 after buying it in 1899, but he never did so. He conveyed the vacant property for $400 to Mary A. Taylor on November 11, 1904, the day after Mary and her husband William had conveyed to Quillin lot 102, a lot on the south side of Caroline Street that joined the northerly line of his Brighton Hotel property.

Photograph by Sandy Hurley 2014
William Taylor was an Ocean City hotel keeper, having previously purchased the Synepuxent House, a small hostelry built in 1877 on the northwest corner of Worcester Street and Baltimore Avenue (lot 62), in 1900. William and Mary erected a new hotel on lot 54 in 1905 that they called “The Talbot Inn”. An advertisement for the inn placed in The Baltimore Sun in 1915 touted, “Bathing from hotel, cool rooms, excel. table, reas. rates.”

Mary Taylor died in 1924, and William sold The Talbot Inn to Samuel J. Massey two years later. Samuel was a former fisherman who was later employed by the State Roads Commission as a bridge tender in Ocean City. His father, also named Samuel J. Massey, had built and operated the Seaside Hotel, located on the northwest corner of Wicomico Street and Baltimore Avenue, for many years. Following the sale, the inn on Talbot Street took on the new name of the “Massey Hotel”.

Samuel and Minnie Massey conveyed the hotel to their daughter Sarah and her new husband, Harlan Perdue, in 1934. Sarah and her first husband, Clinton T. Coffin, who died before 1925, had owned and operated a grocery store in the building situated on the south side of the lot adjoining the Massey Hotel property (lot 53). After Clinton’s death, Sarah sold that building, and she and her young son Sam moved in with her parents in their hotel. It isn’t entirely clear how Sarah met Harlan Perdue, a resident of Pittsville in Wicomico County, but the answer may be that Harlan’s job as a grocery salesman had brought him to Sarah and Clinton’s store on Baltimore Avenue in Ocean City.

Over the winter of 1934 – 1935, Harlan arranged to have the former Massey building raised, adding two storefronts on the street level under the building and a third storefront on the northerly side of the building. The first occupant of the newly created space was one of the four Worcester County liquor dispensaries that were established in the county following the end of Prohibition on December 5, 1933. The Ocean City dispensary had set up shop temporarily in Frank Sacca’s Adelphia building on Dorchester Street in March 1934, and then opened for business in its new quarters on the corner of Talbot Street on April 1, 1935.
Next door to the dispensary, Harlan operated a popular soda fountain and confectionery store, while renting out the apartments upstairs. Harlan and his stepson Sam Coffin worked the counter and a lady named Ida Russell handled the confectionery section. Local historian George Hurley recalled:

“What fascinated me most as a high school student about the elder Perdue was that he had one arm that had been amputated just below the elbow (rumor had it that the arm had been lost in a combine farming accident). But he could tuck a cone in the crook of his elbow and stub and dip ice cream onto it quite easily! Their little business was the most popular place in town at lunchtime during the early 1950s. My Dad helped build Mr. Perdue a very nice home on Herring Creek on land that my grandmother [Evelyn Murray] had sold him. He had a huge Lionel train collection and set-up in his expansive attic.”

A number of enterprises occupied the third storefront over the years. Sarah Perdue and Sam Coffin’s wife Evelyn operated the “Due-Fin Gift Shop” there, offering upscale china and other gifts, but it was not successful. About the only attention the shop garnered happened on July 31, 1962, when Eddie Davis, part owner of the Davis & Lynch Fish Company, crashed his car into the shop after suffering a fatal heart attack while driving along Baltimore Avenue.

Harlan R. Perdue and Son Drugs and Sundries remained a fixture on the corner of Talbot Street into the 1970s. Sarah Perdue died in 1978, and in 1980 Harlan, then in his eighties, sold the entire property, including contents, to Towson, Maryland residents James and Janice Wollam for $115,000. The property has changed hands five times since then. The current owners, Garry and Gretchen Smith of Wales Center, New York, paid $1.1 million for the lot and century-old building in 2007.

Among the businesses that took up residence in the old Taylor House were Common Grounds, a coffeehouse opened by Traci and Everett McGovern in 1994, Quicky’s Pizza and a scooter rental outfit. The storefronts along the west side of Baltimore Avenue today house the Smoky Shop, opened in 2009 in the former dispensary space, Tai Ji Sushi, opened in 2014, and India Emporium.

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