The Carousel, a sky-grazing oceanfront hotel and condominium building on 118th Street, is a relic of mid-century Ocean City that’s withstood the test of time — though not without its share of controversy.
The Carousel Back Then
Originally called Bobby Baker’s Carousel Motel, the original building opened in July of 1962, standing then at only four stories high and able to host 250 people at a time. The beachfront plot of land had been purchased in 1959 for $75,000, not a bad deal for an oceanside property, but then that was a time when Ocean City only extended as far as 41st Street. Commotion and excitement surrounded the grand opening of the Carousel, but many wondered why a $1.2 million structure would be built in what was then still considered to be Fenwick Island, Delaware.
In its heyday, the Carousel was host to a revolving door of politicians and Washington elites. Bobby Baker himself, the original owner of the hotel, was an adviser to Lyndon B. Johnson and served as Secretary to the Democratic Majority Leader in 1953. Johnson and his wife famously pulled up to the Carousel at its grand opening in a sparkling limousine, among other guests from D.C.
In an article “Bobby Baker’s Carousel: Reminiscences of a Small Town,” an unnamed political insider is quoted saying, “In D.C… the prevailing view at the time was that LBJ himself tasked Bobby with building the Carousel expressly for the purpose of making a hideaway where Washington pols could conduct their personal business outside the microscope of the DC press corps and others,” though Baker denied this. The Coastal Style article details the life and times of Baker in Ocean City, his political life marred by scandal, a romantic escapade ending in a plane crash, mysterious business dealings, and a little about the early history of the hotel. In short, it’s a doozy.
When Baker went to prison in 1971, sentenced for bribery, tax evasion, and fraud, his wife and brother-in-law sold the hotel out from under him, much to Baker’s dismay. The family eventually faded into obscurity and most of the theatrics surrounding the Carousel and its owners would be relegated to the history books.
It’s been a long journey, from a four-story motel standing alone in the great, empty expanse of North Ocean City and serving as a respite for high-power Washingtonians to one of Ocean City’s most famous highrises. Today the Carousel has hotel rooms, condo units, pools, and an indoor ice skating rink, and hosts more families from the mid-Atlantic suburbs than political insiders. The Carousel is one business of many that helped shape Ocean City into the resort town that we know and love today, once the northernmost outpost in town that would pave the way for other condos, hotels, and development in North Ocean City as a whole.
The Carousel Today
If you’re looking to book a stay at the Carousel, here’s where you can do it.