THE BOARDWALK in Ocean City, Maryland combines entertainment and night life, fun, sun, sand and surf, with a rich cultural history. Prior to 1870, what is now Ocean City was known as The Ladies’ Resort to the Ocean. In 1869 the first ocean-front hotel was built there, and the original board walk followed soon after. Since then numerous hotels and resorts, bars, restaurants, theaters and tourist shops have popped up along the Boardwalk, also known as Atlantic Ave, in Ocean City, MD; and today the Boardwalk is one of the top destinations for beach goers, families, and high-school seniors in the mid-Atlantic region.
A Brief History
How long has the Ocean City Boardwalk been around? The original boardwalk was nothing more than a wooden walkway constructed in 1902 by several oceanfront hotel owners as a convenient means of transportation and a relaxation spot for their guests. At each high tide, the hotel owners would take up the parts of the boardwalk and store them until the tide went out again. 10 years later a permanent promenade was built. It only ran approximately five blocks until it was expanded in 1920. A huge storm in March of 1962 leveled the promenade and destroyed the boardwalk, making way for the current Boardwalk, which spans an impressive 2.5 miles of beautiful beach front, officially ending at 27th Street.
The first beachfront cottage was built in 1869 by businessman Isaac Coffman. Several other boarding houses opened on the strip of sand, and the original boardwalk was constructed for the convenience of these guests; who arrived at Ocean City by coach or ferry for great off-shore fishing, walking along the beach collecting seashells, or to enjoy the natural beauty of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic Hotel opened in 1875 and was the first major hotel to offer accommodations to the public. The 3-story H-shaped hotel is a replacement of the original Victorian hotel that burned in 1925, but The Atlantic is still a prominent fixture on the Ocean City Boardwalk. The 1925 fire also claimed the Seaside Hotel and the nearby Pier. At a meeting to discuss the hotel’s redevelopment following the fire, the decision was made to rename the entire area Ocean City.
The Lankford Hotel is a family owned establishment and is one of the best preserved of the ‘old’ hotels on the Boardwalk, with a construction date in the early 1920s. The original third-story porch provides an excellent elevated view up and down the Boardwalk today. The Beach Plaza Hotel was built in 1954 by a former mayor of Ocean City. The hotel was a favorite destination of the Nixon family. The Commander Hotel was originally constructed in 1929. For some time it was the northernmost hotel in the city, and marked the end of the Boardwalk. The Santa Maria Motel is Ocean City’s first motor hotel. It was financed in 1956 with personal loans when no bank would take on this risky new hospitality concept. And the Harison Hall Hotel constructed in 1951 was the last of the truly large resort hotels built on the Boardwalk.
The Pier Building was erected in 1926, at the same spot as the first pavilion. The neoclassical construction is the only example of entertainment-related seaside architecture in Maryland. The original structure housed a skating rink, bowling alley, pool room, refreshment booths, and a second-story ballroom dance hall.
The Ocean City Live-Saving Station Museum opened in 1977 to honor a history lifesaving service in Ocean City. In 1878 the first station was built between North Division and Caroline Streets, with large gable doors facing the ocean. The structure was expanded in 1890 to house a life-saving boat, and again in 1912. The entire station was moved to the Inlet and converted to a city museum
One of the most historic structures on the Boardwalk is the famous carousel at Trimper’s Amusements. With continuous operation since its installation in 1912, it is the oldest continuously operating carousel in the entire country. The Herschel-Spellman carousel features two tiers of hand carved and painted animals originally constructed in 1902.
The Inlet Indian is an original sculpture by world-renowned artist Peter Toth. The representation of an Assateague Indian was carved from 100-year-old oak. The artist gifted the statue to the state of Maryland in 1976.