Ocean City, Maryland – THEN & NOW LOTS 60, 69, 86 and 95
The “Seaside Hotel property”
Postcard view of the Seaside Hotel looking west from Wicomico Street, circa 1912. Courtesy of the Ocean City Museum Society.
Unlike Isaac Coffin and Capt. Ayres, Samuel Massey became an investor in the enterprise known as the Atlantic Hotel Company that financed the construction of the new hotel on Maryland’s Atlantic coast. The company held a special drawing for its stockholders on August 31, 1875 to distribute building lots in the newly platted town of Ocean City. Lot 60, on the northwest corner of Baltimore Avenue and Wicomico Street where Massey happened to have erected his boarding house, was withheld from the drawing, and afterward sold to Massey for a penny, perhaps in recognition of his early contribution to the town’s development. Fellow stockholders George W. Purnell, Alison Frank Parsons and Robert J. Henry, who had drawn lots 69, 86 and 95 that stretched west from Massey’s lot 60 along the north side of Wicomico Street, conveyed those lots to him at about the same time. Massey himself drew lot 138 on the northwest corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Worcester Street, where he built a livery stable to accommodate his guests’ horses and carriages.
Samuel Massey undertook the construction of a much larger facility in 1876, a four-story building fronting along the west side of Baltimore Avenue that he called the “Seaside Hotel”. The new hotel opened for the summer season of 1877 with an advertised capacity of 250 guests. The Seaside became known for its “excellent table”, which Massey boasted as featuring “soft crabs, fish, terrapins, &c., from our own pens, served to guests every day.” Daily room rates including meals were $2 in June and $2.50 in July and August, the earliest example of “seasonal” hotel rates in Ocean City. Weekly rates ranged from $10 to $12.50.
Despite the popularity of the Seaside’s dining room, patronage suffered due to the hotel being located a block off the ocean. Massey put the Seaside up for sale in 1881, but there were no takers. After struggling along with the rest of the resort for most of the 1880s, Massey was able to secure the services of John Tracy, the well-respected former proprietor of the Atlantic Hotel from 1876 to 1887, under a five-year lease commencing with the 1889 season. The Evening Star announced on June 27, 1889 that “the present proprietors purpose giving this famous Hotel its old-time prestige by liberal management in everything appertaining to the comfort of their guests.” The Seaside Hotel unquestionably enjoyed its greatest success under the skillful management of John Tracy.
Tracy informed Samuel Massey prior to the 1893 season, the final year of his lease, that he would not be renewing the agreement. Once again Massey sought a buyer for the hotel. Although his search was unsuccessful, he was able to keep the hotel going by arranging with the Atlantic Hotel owners to house their overflow guests.
Samuel Massey’s nearly quarter-century effort to operate the Seaside Hotel profitably ended in 1900 when he defaulted on his mortgage. The hotel property, including all four lots on Wicomico Street, was auctioned off to John Waggaman on January 12, 1901 for $2,775. The Sun reported the sale and Waggaman’s plans for the hotel on April 19, 1901: “Mr. John F. Waggaman recently purchased the Seaside Hotel, in Ocean City, and has commenced putting it in first-class condition for use as an annex to the Atlantic Hotel. The Seaside Hotel will be remodeled and refurnished in keeping with the Atlantic. All of the old outbuildings and kitchen will be torn away. The house will be used as sleeping quarters only.”
After the railroad moved its passenger train station to the east side of Philadelphia Avenue between Wicomico Street and Somerset Street in 1903, a board walk was erected along the north side of the Seaside Hotel property leading from the station to Baltimore Avenue. The walk, later replaced by a concrete road bed, provided a convenient passageway for guests to reach the Atlantic Hotel. It was informally referred to as “Seaside Street” for many years, but no longer exists today.
For the next dozen years, the Seaside functioned as an annex to the more prestigious Atlantic Hotel. The hotel’s numerous proprietors during that time included Irene Poe Wilson, a descendant of the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe, who managed the property for the 1909 season.
John Waggaman tried to unload the Seaside, along with his other extensive holdings in Ocean City, several times, only to have the buyers eventually default on their loans. He finally sold the hotel (for cash) to Daniel Trimper, Sr., in 1913. A new parade of proprietors took their turns at trying to make the hotel a financially viable venture. Nearly every year newspaper advertisements announced that the hotel was under “new management”. The only proprietors with any staying power during Trimper’s ownership were a couple of brothers from Baltimore, W. H. Botz and J. H. Botz, who ran the hotel in 1920 and 1921. The brothers reopened the dining room, which they claimed served up “good, wholesome home cooking” with “vegetables from our own farm.”
Daniel Trimper sold the Seaside Hotel to Horace and Amanda Cropper in 1923 for $10,550. The hotel was destroyed in the devastating fire of December 29, 1925, along with the electric power plant (located on the north side of Seaside Street adjacent to the hotel, and where the fire originated), the Atlantic Hotel, Dolle’s Candyland, the pier and a large part of the Boardwalk. The Croppers chose not to rebuild, selling the entire hotel property to E. Raymond Bounds in early 1926 for $8,000, which they then used to purchase the Shoreham Hotel on the Boardwalk at 4th Street.
Bounds erected a parking garage where the Seaside Hotel had once stood. He converted the garage to a service station in the early 1930s, adding two gasoline pumps on the corner of Baltimore Avenue and Wicomico Street. Following another renovation of the building into “stores below and living compartments above”, Bounds sold the improved 4,000 square foot parcel in 1939 to Lewis and Mary Hardcastle, who operated “Hardcastle Hardware” there until the early 1950s.
In 1944 Raymond Bounds sold the extreme westerly portion of the Seaside Hotel property to Paul and Hazel Venable, who established a dry-cleaning business on the premises. The Kitchen restaurant and adjoining apartment building occupy the site today.
Photograph of the northwest corner of Baltimore Avenue and Wicomico Street taken in 2014. The building on the corner formerly housed Elliott’s Hardware. To its north is Elliott’s on the Avenue. Photo credit: Sandy Hurley.
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