Ocean City History: Photos of the Plimhimmon Hotel Over the Centuries

Ocean City History: Photos of the Plimhimmon Hotel Over the Centuries

Origins of the Plimhimmon, one of Ocean City’s original hotels

The Plimhimmon Hotel was built in 1894 and owned by Rosalie Tilghman Shreve. It was one of the first three hotels to be built in Ocean City, along with The Atlantic and The Seaside. 

Mrs. Tilghman Shreve grew up on the Plimhimmon Plantation near Oxford, Md. Rosalie’s family, the Tilghmans, were slaveowners and Southern sympathizers. She met her husband Thomas Jefferson Shreve at age 17, when Shreve came to work for Rosalie’s father at the Maryland and Delaware Railroad. Shreve was a Civil War veteran; hailing from Leesburg, Va., he fought for the Confederacy and was captured and imprisoned at Fort Delaware, released after contracting tuberculosis. Shreve died just two years after they were married. 

When the War ended, the Plimhimmon Plantation lost its slaves and Rosalie was left to milk the cows herself. With large debts to pay off, Tilghman Shreve purchased two large lots facing the Atlantic Ocean with plans to build a 48-bedroom house, complete with a reception hall, electricity, sanitary plumbing and oak and cherry furnishings. 

The hotel as it originally appeared. Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.
Beachgoers in front of the Plimhimmon, from the Maryland state archives.
The Plimhimmon Dining Room circa 1900. Photo courtesy of Gerald Uhlan.
The hotel’s interior circa 1939.
The Plimhimmon Hotel circa 1922, colorized.

The Plimhimmon Hotel Fire of 1962

During an expansion of the hotel in 1962, a fire broke out in the hotel’s north wing after the mishandling of electrical equipment, and the blaze quickly spread to the rest of the building. At the time, it was one of the biggest fires ever fought by the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, and over 400 firefighters from 11 nearby fire companies joined forces to quell the flames. 

Only parts of the south wing avoided any damage, and part of that wing remains standing today. In 2012, when carpenters at the Plimhimmon — now the Plim Plaza — were replacing siding on the poolside of the hotel, they found burnt timbers and old-fashioned peg joinery.

Nov. 21, 1962. The only known photo of the blazing fire, taken by the Baltimore Sun.
The debris of the original cupola are seen against the Colonial Hotel, left.
The aftermath of the fire, taken in November of 1962. The hotel was undergoing renovations of the North wing when the blaze broke out.

Ocean City Fire Ruins Big Hotel

From The Washington Post

Ocean City, Md., Nov. 21 (AP) — The Plimhimmon Hotel, a sprawling tourist landmark dating back to the turn of the century, was nearly destroyed by fire early today. 

A raging blaze destroyed the facade facing the boardwalk and gutted the inside of the four-story building and two large wings that faced away from the sea. 

Only these wings of the huge frame building remained standing. 

One town official estimated the damage at $750,000. The hotel was the largest and oldest on the boardwalk. 

The fire reportedly started in the north wing of the hotel and threatened to spread to adjoining hotels, but a favorable shift in the wind prevented this. 

Fourteen fire companies from Worcester and Wicomico counties and from Selbyville, Del., brought the blaze under control after about two hours. 

Personnel at the Coast Guard tower near the inlet noticed sparks at 4 a.m.

Chief Phillips said carpenters and plumbers had been working at the hotel Tuesday. The owner, Willard I. Donoho of Mardela Springs, was building an addition to increase the number of rooms from 280 to 400. 

The hotel was closed for the winter and unoccupied. Several firemen suffered minor cuts and smoke inhalation while fighting the blaze. 

Rosalie Tilghman, a Civil War widow, built the “Plim” in 1890 to support her and her two sons. 

By the turn of the century Baltimoreans regularly boarded a steamer at Pier Eight, crossed the Chesapeake Bay and took a train of the now defunct Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad that twisted its way to the seashore. Passengers usually walked the sandy trails from the train station in Ocean City to the “Plim.” A horse cart carried the baggage.

A room at the Plimhimmon used to cost $2.50 a day and the hotel advertised a bath on every floor and bottled water. 

The hotel’s rebirth

The hotel was rebuilt, a fifth floor was added and even its famous cupola was replaced by the summer of 1963. Its name was originally changed to the Plim Plaza to match the hotel’s new, modern look. Today, 124 years after the original lodging was built, the Plimhimmon-turned-Plim Plaza remains an Ocean City landmark on the boardwalk between 1st and 2nd streets, and continues to serve thousands of families every summer. 

The rebuilt Plimhimmon Hotel in the summer of 1963. Photo courtesy of Gerald Uhlan.
Photo of the Plim Plaza by John Margolies, 1985.
Photo of the Plim Plaza’s cupola by John Margolies, 1985.
The Plim Plaza hotel today.

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