By Logan Dubel
On the surface, a trip to Ocean City may only entail days lying in the sun and nights strolling down the Boardwalk. However, there are other sights to see, including stories of the resort’s past. No place highlights the history of the island better than the Life-Saving Station Museum, a notable landmark, and a staple in the Town of Ocean City.
Located on the southernmost end of the Boardwalk, the Life-Saving Station is the only museum in the resort. With numerous exhibits and countless artifacts, the building is the perfect stop for lovers of Ocean City.
This summer, it is easier than ever to visit and learn. Open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there is much more to do than simply look around. Each morning at 11:30, an educator from the museum hosts an aquarium program, allowing families to watch as the animals devour their morning meals.
Beginning July 4, programming will expand tremendously to keep visitors occupied through the rest of the season. Monday through Saturday until August 28, the museum will offer free outdoor 30-minute sessions diving into a variety of beach-themed topics.
On Mondays, learn about the “History of our Surfmen,” explaining the role of the United States Life-Saving Service in rescuing ships, even off the coast of Ocean City. The “Beach Safety” initiative is held on Tuesdays with the Beach Patrol and provides the chance to learn semaphore, the method of communication used on the sand among lifeguards. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is on hand for Wednesday’s program and presents an intuitive session about “Knot Tying.” Crowds are likely the largest for the very popular “All About Sharks” program on Thursdays, which dispels fact from fiction about the role the big fish play in our oceans and gives a unique look at the jaw of a Mako shark and megalodon teeth. On Fridays, learn about how the island of Ocean City came to be and the species that inhabit it as part of the “Land, Sky, and Sea” initiative. Finally, on Saturdays, the “Aquarium Feeding” program allows another opportunity to see the wildlife of the coastal bays eat their first meal of the day.
As for who is welcome, the museum says to make it a family affair. “Our target audience is the entire family,” said newly-promoted Curator Christine Okerblom. “Whether its young children, parents, or grandparents, we offer an interactive educational experience that is fit for everyone.”
Walking Through History
While these programs are intriguing and offer unique Ocean City history, no artifact nor story is as special as the journey of the building itself. The building has served in its current capacity since 1978 but played many roles for an entire century before. Ocean City commissioned the first station in 1878 on Caroline Street, which lasted until the construction of a new and more advanced station in 1891. To the shock of many, the 1891 building is the same station that stands today, 130 years later.
In the century and a few decades that have passed, the building has served many purposes besides a life-saving station, including the central command for the Beach Patrol and a health and crisis center dedicated to wellness. The perseverance of the building is miraculous, considering that amid a land dispute in 1977, the 150-ton station was hauled across the beach on a trailer and moved to its current location. Reopening in its present form in 1978 during the famous Sunfest event, the museum has continued to stay committed to maintaining local history in the decades since.
Although the museum honors the past of the life-saving service, it also meets the challenge of being Ocean City’s only museum. Displays include “Sands from Around the World,” “The Boardwalk of Yesteryear,” and “A Feminine Touch” highlighting the impact of women on Ocean City. The exhibits are permanent and on display all year.
Finding a Future for The Past
Earlier in 2021, the museum announced the addition of a second location, when the Bank of Ocean City donated its now-closed historic downtown building to the Museum Society. While the bank unveiled the plans several months ago, museum staff says that funding is still needed to push the project forward. Once they secure grants and begin exterior renovations, a timeline for the opening of the new museum branch will be clearer.
Click here to read more about the new location.
For those that have not visited the museum before, the Ocean City experience is incomplete without a stop at the Life-Saving Station Museum. “You will come here and learn about the beach town you love and get to know its history,” Okerblom passionately explained. “Along with eating at restaurants and playing on the beach, this is your unique educational and cultural Ocean City experience. We have something for everyone.”
Admission to the indoor museum is free for children 11 and younger, $3.00 for adolescents 12-18, veterans and seniors ages 62 or older, and $5.00 for adults. Call 410-289-4991 or click here for more information.