Ocean City, Maryland was known as a sleepy fishing village due to its isolation as a barrier island.
The land the city was built on, as well as much of the surrounding area, was once owned by Englishman Thomas Fenwick. In 1869, businessman Isaac Coffin built the first beach-front cottage to receive paying guests. During those days, people arrived by stage coach and ferry. They came to fish off the shore, to enjoy the natural beauty of the Atlantic Ocean pounding against the long strip of sandy beach, to collect seashells, or just to sit back and watch the rolling surf.
Soon after, other simple boarding houses were built on the strip of sand, with the activity attracting prominent businessmen from the Maryland Eastern Shore, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. They came not so much to visit as to survey the spit. A decision was made to develop it and 250 lots were cut into it, and a corporation was formed to help with the development of the land. The corporation stock of 4,000 shares sold for $25 each.
The Atlantic Hotel, the first major hotel in the town, opened July 4, 1875. Besides the beach and ocean, it offered dancing and billiard rooms to the visitors of its more than 400 rooms, and for years it was the northernmost attraction in Ocean City. By 1878 tourists could come by railroad from Berlin to the shores of Sinepuxent Bay across from the town. By 1881, a line was completed across the Sinepuxent Bay to the shore, bringing rail passengers directly into the town.
In 1878, the U.S. Life-Saving Service, an ancestor of today’s Coast Guard, established a station here. Their mission: to venture out in stormy seas and rescue shipwreck victims. The second station, built in 1891, is now the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum, enshrining Ocean City’s history and saluting the brave men who worked here.
The Ocean City Boardwalk was built as a seasonal fixture in 1900. The Ocean City Inlet was formed during a major hurricane in 1933, which also destroyed the train tracks across the Sinepuxent Bay. The inlet separated what is now Ocean City from Assateague Island. The Army Corps of Engineers took advantage of nature’s intervention and made the inlet at the south end of Ocean City permanent. The inlet eventually helped to establish Ocean City as an important Mid-Atlantic sports fishing destination as it offered easy access to the fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean.
Rapid expansion of Ocean City took place during the post-war boom. In 1952, with the completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Ocean City became easily accessible to people in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. In 1964, with the completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a whole new pathway to the south was opened. Ocean City became one of the largest vacation areas on the East Coast.
By the 1970s, big business flourished and gave birth to the construction of more than 10,000 condominium units, creating a spectacular sight of high-rise condominiums that assured every investor of a glimpse of the ocean and pounding surf.
Today, the Ocean City area continues to sprawl westward across the bay and toward Berlin and Ocean Pines. The resort area now accommodates hundreds of thousands of vacationers a year.
Ocean City extends over 10 miles of beautiful beach from the southern inlet to the Delaware line. The strip supports hotels, motels, apartment houses, shopping centers, residential communities, and condominiums. The southern tip houses the Ocean City Boardwalk. The nearly 3-mile boardwalk is home to food, entertainment, games and shopping.
The Roland E. Powell Convention Center is a highly popular site for meetings of all sizes. And with more than 10,000 hotel rooms and 21,000 condominiums, Ocean City has accommodations for every need and taste.
Ocean City has a long history of fishing, both commercial and recreational. The town bills itself as the “White Marlin Capital of the World.” During the summer, numerous charter and private boats fish for bluefish, tuna, wahoo, and other game fish. One of the largest fishing tournaments in the world, the White Marlin Open, is held annually in early August.