The Times and Tides of Ocean City, Maryland
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OCEAN CITY, MARYLAND – THEN & NOW LOTS 58 and 71 (and parts of lots 57 and 72 too) –
“Schaefer’s Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor”
by Gordon E. Katz
July 2016

Lots 57, 58, 71 and 72 on the original plat of Ocean City form a square on the west side of Baltimore Avenue between Somerset Street and Dorchester Street. At the stockholders’ meeting of the Atlantic Hotel Company held on August 31, 1875, Maryland State Senator Ephraim K. Wilson drew lots 58 and 71, fronting on the north side of Somerset Street, and Salisbury merchant Purnell Toadvine and his son, attorney E. Stanley Toadvine, drew lots 57 and 72, fronting on the south side of Dorchester Street. By 1890, E. Stanley Toadvine had acquired title to all four lots, which he sold to Thomas J. Cropper in 1895. The square formed by the four lots in downtown Ocean City was known for many years as the “Cropper block”.
Thomas leased a portion of lot 58, at the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Somerset Street, to Joseph Schaefer shortly after acquiring the block. Joseph Schaefer was a German immigrant and baker by trade, who came to Ocean City from Washington, D.C. During the town’s rapid growth in the 1890s and into the early 20th century, affairs in Ocean City were dominated by the social elite of Washington and Baltimore, who brought with them a supporting cast of workers, both white and black, to cater to their summertime pleasure. Joseph erected a wood frame building on his lot, out of which he operated a bakery, confectionery and delicatessen on the land leased from Thomas Cropper. His wife Annie managed the store.
Joseph and Annie purchased lot 58 and parts of adjoining lots 57 and 71 from Cropper in 1901 to accommodate an expansion of their business. They subsequently bought the remainder of lot 71 and part of lot 72 in 1904. Joseph was active in the local community, serving on the City Council from 1908 to 1912, on the board of directors of the Ocean City Pier and Improvement Company that was responsible for constructing Ocean City’s first pier in 1907, and as treasurer of the Ocean City Ice and Fuel Company, which built a “modern ice plant” on the southwest corner of Somerset Street and Philadelphia Avenue in 1910.

Hall's Pioneer Hotel and Plaza 1996
During the overnight hours of September 26 – 27, 1909, a fire caused by “an oil lamp exploding at the City Water Works” on the south side of Dorchester Street destroyed that building and Schaefer’s Bakery as well. Joseph and Annie rebuilt, erecting a two-story concrete block structure, the first of its kind in the downtown section. The new structure housed the bakery and added a new ice cream parlor fronting on Baltimore Avenue on the first floor, with rooms to rent on the second floor. Shortly afterward, the couple moved to Cape Charles, Virginia, but returned during the summer months to open their shop in Ocean City.
After thirty years in business in Ocean City, Joseph and Annie Schaefer sold the property in 1926 to Berlin restaurateur William J. Hastings, Jr. William and his wife Mary converted the former bakery and ice cream parlor on the first floor into the “Wil-Mar Restaurant,” while continuing to rent the rooms on the second floor to summer boarders. Ogden T. Davis bought the restaurant in 1945 from William and Mary, who used part of the proceeds to help their sons, William, III, and Norman, finance their purchase of the Colonial Hotel on the Boardwalk. Davis continued to operate the business as the Wil-Mar, but didn’t keep up with the maintenance. After the town condemned one of the buildings attached to the restaurant in 1950, Davis decided to sell rather than incur the expense of demolition.
Thomas Q. Cropper, one of the sons of Thomas J. Cropper, bought the property from Ogden Davis and his wife in 1951. He moved his family into part of the former restaurant space, and used the rest for an ice cream delivery business. After Thomas died in 1967, his widow Lura conveyed the building to their son, James T. Cropper. Once again, the first floor was converted to yet another use, this time into a storefront housing a sundries store. Joseph T. Hall, the owner of Hall’s Restaurant at 60th Street, acquired the property in 1976, operating it as Hall’s Pioneer Hotel (on the second floor) and Plaza (first floor store).
Hall sold the lot and building to the town of Ocean City in 2014 for $816,000 under the “model block program” that the Ocean City Development Corporation envisions for that section of downtown Ocean City. The more than a century old structure was torn down in June 2015 and replaced by a municipal parking lot.

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