The Petticoat Regime of 1890-1926
Of the thirty-two hotels and boarding houses listed in this 1926 guide to Ocean City all but two were owned and managed by women. Space does not allow for the inclusion of the entire Petticoat Regime of Ocean City. Photographs and memoirs of the women pictured here are from collections gifted to the museum by their families. All of the women presented were in business prior to 1926.
Collection of Hilda Thomas Davis
Collection of Mary Lou Mason Brueckman
In 1909 she arrived, in Ocean City, via a small skiff, from the town of Parksley, Virginia with her family of four children and the family cow in tow. Her past had been troublesome: the man she had married was a school teacher who had turned into an irresponsible, shiftless, horse trader. Though she did not divorce him, she left him for a better life. Mrs. Mason had little to no education and was considered legally deaf. Once in Ocean City she spent the next ten years renting and operating, small rooming houses until she had saved enough money for a down payment on a hotel. In 1919, she purchased the Mount Pleasant Hotel with a mortgage of $10,000. Under her management, the hotel became a popular business enterprise. In 1933, at age seventy-one, she reluctantly retired from the hotel business.
The Mount Pleasant Hotel was located near North Division Street on the Boardwalk. The hotel no longer exists.
Collection of Thelma J. Dennis
Ella Phillips Dennis came to Ocean City in 1890 to regain her health. Two years later, and forty pounds heavier she built the Dennis Hotel. Mrs. Dennis was one of the first women to build such an establishment on the island. She was a staunch Presbyterian and has been given credit for founding the First Presbyterian Church of Ocean City. Known for her outspokenness, Ella Dennis is remembered for her statements to the press concerning the men of the town. She often remarked that "Ocean City is seventy percent built by women, run by women and the men are all henpecked."
The Dennis Hotel was located on Baltimore Avenue & Dorchester Street. The hotel no longer exists.
Collection of Thelma and Milton Conner
Willie Jones came to the resort from Snow Hill at the turn of the 20th century seeking work for the summer at George Conner's boardwalk restaurant. She married the owner shortly thereafter and became the mother of three children. Mr. Conner, who was much older than she, died in 1916. As a widow, she sold the restaurant in 1922, and bought the newly built Hastings Hotel and began a career that lasted over fifty years. She would own many properties in Ocean City, and later in her life she was recognized for building the new and modern Santa Maria Motel in 1956.
The Hasting Hotel was located on the Boardwalk between Second & Third Streets. The hotel no long exists.
Collection of Levin G. Shreve
Ocean City's Petticoat Regime begins in 1890 when Mrs. Shreve comes to Ocean City. She opens a summer time boarding house. It is so successful that in 1894, at the age of 50, she ventures into a new business. She purchases two ocean front lots, north of the city limits, and builds the Plimhimmon Hotel with its 48 rooms that could accommodate ninety people. The interior was quite plush with modern electricity and sanitary plumbing of the day. The hotel was an instant success and Rosalie Shreve grew rich beyond her wildest dreams.
Rosalie Tilghman was the daughter of General Tench Tilghman, the Adjutant General of the State of Maryland. She was born at Plimhimmon Plantation near Oxford, Maryland. Being Southern sympathizers, after the Civil War, meant the loss of slave labor on Plimhimmon Plantation. The bankruptcy of the General's railroad company left the family with huge debts. Rosalie was reduced to milking the cows. She was also the widow Shreve with two small children at age 19. This is why she pursued a life as an innkeeper first in Baltimore and then as a hotelier at Ocean City.
The Plimhimmon Hotel was located on the Boardwalk between First & Second Streets. The hotel was destroyed by fire in 1962.
Collection Kathryn Jones Bunting
Elizabeth Harper Hearne and her husband, Dr. Thomas Hearne, moved to Ocean City from Bishopville in 1896. Their home became a haven for free-loading family and friends. Elizabeth decided to put a stop to it by renaming her home, the Belmont Hotel and posting room rates. This solved the problem. She was widowed in 1902 with a daughter to support and educate. Thereafter, all of her time and energy was devoted to not only the hotel, but to acquiring other properties in the downtown area. By the time of her death in 1936, she had expanded the Belmont Hotel to accommodate 100 paying guests.
The Belmont Hotel was located on the ocean block of Dorchester Street. The hotel no longer exists.
Collection of Hilda Rounds Savage
Mrs. Rounds with her husband George moved to Ocean City in 1904 and began receiving paying guest into their home on Talbot Street. Mr. Rounds was a commercial pound fisherman and showed no interest in the rental business. A tragic event in 1914 would launch Susie Rounds into the hotel business. A child fell to her death from a third story window of the Avondale Hotel. The owners of the Avondale were so devastated that they could no longer live there and asked Susie to trade her home for the hotel. She did them the favor. Later she would purchase the Del-Mar-Va Hotel and remain at that location for 25 years. Still later in the 1940s, after the death of her husband, she would purchase the much larger and newly built Majestic Hotel. She enjoyed the hard and laborious duties of being a hotel owner.
The Avondale was located on Baltimore Avenue at Talbot Street. The building no longer exists.
Collection of Florence Massey Black
Josephine Massey came to Ocean City in 1890 with her husband James, and her young son, J. Allen. For the next ten years, she rented and operated several small rooming houses, until she felt confident that Ocean City had a future for her. The responsibility of the undertakings rested solely upon Mrs. Massey as her son was too young and her husband was too much of a "gentleman," too highly educated and too fond of liquid refreshment to work. During the winter months she owned a forty-four room home in Baltimore that she converted into a boarding house. By a stroke of good luck, in 1901, Mrs. Massey was able to purchase a partially built hotel. It seems that a Miss Vandegrift had started to build a hotel on Third Street when she discovered that due to a surveyor's error, her building lots were actually on Fourth Street. This ruined Miss Vandegrift financially, so Mrs. Massey was able to purchase the project, which she named the Hamilton Hotel, for a song.
The Hamilton Hotel was located on the Boardwalk at Third Street. The building no longer exists.
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