The Late History Of Ocean City, Maryland - Part 2 of 2
In our October blog, I discussed the fascinating early history of Ocean City, Maryland, how the barrier island shifted from being peppered by Algonquian inhabitants to the establishment of the Atlantic as the first hotel, with the Life-Saving Station and Trimper’s Amusements as emerging as the first landmarks on the boardwalk. However, except for a few cottages, OCMD was mostly uninhabited from 30th street to the Delaware border and was seen by tourists as a summers only destination. Part 2 of 2 of this blog explores the shift to the beachside vacay many of us crave each summer to the hustling complex that offers so many things for visitors to do.
One historical event that I find absolutely amazing is how Ocean City was once connected to Assateague Island. In fact, the area known as the Inlet today didn’t exist. Businesses and even a small pound fishing community, which was a vital income to the town, was located on the land there. This all changed when a major hurricane hit in 1933, destroying the train tracks across the Sinepuxent Bay. Water from the bay surged over into the ocean, separating Ocean City from Assateague Island forever. You can see my awe of this natural disaster via the mind boggling pictures taken below. Although the fishing economy never recovered, the Army Corps of Engineers took advantage of the situation, reinforcing and making the Inlet permanent, putting the town on the map as a Mid-Atlantic fishing port with easy access the Atlantic Ocean and the White Marlin Capital of the World today.
In 1952, with the completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Ocean City became readily accessible to people in Baltimore and Washington regions. By 1964, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel opened a direct connection to the Virginia Tidewater region. Ocean City, Maryland, established itself as a favorite resort for visitors on the East Coast.
Investors like Bobby Baker, who build the Carousel Hotel in 1962, helped to bring business investors from Washington and other metropolitan areas into town (We’ll have more information on the history of the Carousel in future blog posts). By the 1970s more than 10,000 condominium units, including high-rise condominiums that assured every visitor an oceanfront view.
The original pier was destroyed by a fire in 1994. The loss included a small water park, a giant haunted house with live actors, and a New Orleans-style Hollywood Wax Museum. The refurbished Wax Museum is currently the site for the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum.
Although beach replenishment projects were implemented in the 80s and 90s, it wasn’t until 2002 and 2006 that Ocean City undertook the most recent of many, multi-million dollar programs, to ensure that the wide beaches that visitors appreciate remain intact. The programs pumped tons of sand from offshore and deposited it onto the beach. A dune line was also re-established in front of Ocean City’s building line.
Today, Ocean City stretches approximately 10 miles of beautiful beach from the Inlet to the Delaware state line. Coastal Highway, the main artery of the city, supports hotels, motels, apartment houses, shopping centers, residential communities, and condominiums. The city continues to sprawl westward across the bay and toward Berlin and Ocean Pines, a resort that accommodates hundreds of thousands of vacationers each year. Although the downtown neighborhood has Victorian houses and older historical buildings, many of have been razed to construct more parking lots, hotels and condos. The Boardwalk, a main shopping district and entertainment area of the town, is located on the southern tip of the barrier island. Businesses including Fisher’s Caramel Popcorn, Thrashers French Fries, Dollies Salt Water Taffy, the Atlantic Stand, Dumser’s Dairyland are family businesses that have been selling their treats for decades. Trimper’s Rides and The Pier (renamed Jolly Roger at The Pier after its location) are also located on the Boardwalk. In early August, one of the largest fishing tournaments in the world, the White Marlin Open, is held.
Although summer is still considered peak season, tourism is beginning to span all seasons. Fifty years ago, the town would have been closed up after Labor Day; but golfing, the Ocean City Convention Center, and events like the Springfest, Sunfest, and the Winterfest of Lights, continue to draw vacationers in, convincing what used to be seasonal restaurants and hotels to remain open.
Ocean City has a year-round population of about 8,000 people;, but that number balloons many multiples during peak, with college-age and young adults seeking gainful employment, some from as far as Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. Police officers, firefighters, and other works are hired seasonally to ensure the safety of vacationers. The city has always honored individuals who risk their lives to serve others, and has a memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives on September 11 on the boardwalk, about six blocks from the inlet.
Efforts are now being made in Ocean City to go green with recycling programs and a solar energy facility being built within the city limits. Plans have also been in the works for off shore wind generators for several years. With such extensive development and progressive thinking, there's never been a better time to visit Ocean City, Maryland than right now. Whether it's a vacation, a wedding, a guys' or girls' getaway, or a weekend of golf or fishing, the best time to visit Carousel 601 is now.
If you enjoyed these two historical posts, I will be sharing one of my favorite reads on Ocean City, Maryland in a future blog.