Ocean City (OC or OCMD), officially the Town of Ocean City, is an Atlantic resort town in Worcester County, Maryland. Ocean City is widely known in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and is a frequent destination for vacationers in that area. The population was 7,102 at the 2010 U.S. Census, although during summer weekends the city hosts between 320,000 and 345,000 vacationers, and up to 8 million visitors annually. During the summer, Ocean City becomes the second most populated town in Maryland. It is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The land upon which the city was built, as well as much of the surrounding area, was obtained by Englishman Thomas Fenwick from the Native Americans. 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.
Prior to 1870, what is now Ocean City was known as "The Ladies' Resort to the Ocean."
The Atlantic Hotel, the first major hotel in the town, opened July 4, 1875.The Atlantic Hotel was originally owned by the Atlantic Hotel Company, but eventually Charles W. Purnell bought it in 1923. It is still currently owned and operated by the Purnell family. 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 northern-most 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 Sinepuxent Bay to the shore, bringing rail passengers on the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad directly into the town to a train station on Philadelphia Avenue and returning to larger city markets with locally caught fish from Ocean City.
The Ocean City Inlet was formed during a significant 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 fishing port as it offered easy access to the fishing grounds of the Atlantic Ocean.
In the late 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers dredged a new channel on the bayside of Ocean City to allow larger boats to have access to Sinepuxent Bay. The dredge was pumped back onto the western shore of Ocean City allowing the creation of Chicago Avenue and St. Louis Avenue, leading to new development where previously only marshland had been.
Ocean City has become a well-known city in Maryland due to the rapid expansion of Ocean City that 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 of the East Coast.
By the 1970s, big business flourished and gave birth to the construction of more than 15,000 condominium units, creating a spectacular sight of high-rise condominiums that assured every investor of a glimpse of the ocean and pounding surf. However, throughout the 1980s, and into the 1990s, the width of the beach began to shrink, prompting the first of a series of beach replenishment projects.
The original pier was destroyed by a fire in 1994. There was a small water park and giant walk-through haunted house with live actors near the end of the pier and a New Orleans-style Hollywood in Wax Museum on the boardwalk side. In the late 1980s the Wax Museum was turned into a Photon laser tag arena. The building now houses the Ripley's Believe it or Not! museum.
In 2002, Ocean City undertook the most recent of many, multi-million dollar, beach restoration programs, in an attempt to slow the westward migration of its beaches. The program pumped tons of sand from offshore and deposited it onto the beach. A dune line was also re-established in front of Ocean City's building line. Another similar project began after the 2006 tourist season closed.
Today, the Ocean City area continues to sprawl westward across the bay and toward Berlin and Ocean Pines. It was part of the Ocean Pines Micropolitan Statistical Area until that was subsumed by the Salisbury Metropolitan Area. The resort area accommodates approximately 8 million visitors per year.
Ocean City now extends just more than from the southern inlet to the Delaware line. The strip now supports hotels, motels, apartment houses, shopping centers, residential communities, and condominiums. The southern tip houses the Ocean City Boardwalk. The boardwalk is the main shopping district and entertainment area of the town. The boardwalk has many prominent businesses including Fisher's Caramel Popcorn and Thrashers French Fries. Other notable boardwalk businesses are Dolle's Salt Water Taffy, the Atlantic Stand, and Dumser's Dairyland. The Boardwalk has two amusement parks, Trimpers Rides and The Pier, which was recently renamed Jolly Roger at The Pier, after its sister uptown local amusement park. The downtown neighborhood, Old Town, is marked by Victorian style houses and other older buildings, many of which have been razed in recent years to construct more parking lots, hotels, and condos.
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 billfish, tuna, wahoo, and other game fish. In early August, one of the largest fishing tournaments in the world, the White Marlin Open, is held. Prize money for the largest White Marlin, Blue Marlin, and Tuna can range over 1 million dollars.
The town supports a year-round population of about 8,000, with the town itself being a major employer. Summer employment in Ocean City rises many multiples above that level, supported by a large number of college-age and young adults - many native to Eastern Europe and Ireland - attracted by numerous job opportunities. In the summer, businesses and government agencies are augmented with about 100 seasonal police officers, plus extra firefighters and other workers.
Tourism in the off-season has picked up pace over the past decade. Today, Ocean City, Maryland has become one of the most popular vacation areas of the East Coast. Warmer months like June, July, and August attract the most tourists due to the opening of the beaches as well as the many different activities available to do. A "shoulder-season" has been established that ranges in the spring from St. Patrick's Day until Memorial Day Weekend and in the fall from Labor Day Weekend until late October. Many establishments stay open into November and December depending on local events and weather. Numerous special events take place within the town during this shoulder-season, including Sunfest, Springfest, H2Oi, Bike Week, Cruisin' Weekend, Winterfest of Lights and Reach the Beach, which take place on the Boardwalk and/or in the Ocean City Convention Center. Increased traffic from golfers and these special events have convinced many seasonal restaurants and hotels to open sooner and close down later in the year.
The city has erected a memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives on September 11. This memorial is located on the boardwalk, about six blocks from the inlet. The memorial consists of a firefighter statue, engraved brick and stone, and a piece of one of the twin towers that collapsed in New York City. Ocean City is home to the annual Maryland State Firefighters Convention. This is a week-long event in June, that honors the state's firefighters with events and contests at the Convention Center, and ends with a parade.
Northern Ocean City houses many high-rise beachfront condominiums and hotels such as Century I, The Seawatch, Golden Sands Club, and The Carousel. This area is easily recognizable because of its city-like skyline.