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Ocean City History

Ocean City, as befits a beach resort with a nostalgic vibe, has been a vacation spot for a while, at least by American standards. The first beach-front cottage that accepted paying guests was built here by Isaac Coffin in 1869. Other properties soon followed, but given the natural geographic barrier thrown up by the Chesapeake Bay, the area was primarily visited by folks from Baltimore, Philadelphia and Wilmington, rather than Washington, D.C. Eventually, Ocean City became popular enough to attract one of its most prominent demographics—land developers. The beach was cut into lots and, on July 4, 1875, the enormous (for its time) Atlantic Hotel opened up. Still, until the turn of the century, Ocean City was a quiet place, with a tiny full-time population that was tied to the sea by more than tourism. Fishing was a livelihood, and a local coast guard kept their eyes to the water to watch for the shipwrecks that the rough Atlantic so often produced. By 1876, the railways connected OC to the rest of the U.S., and by the early 20th century the town was a popular regional getaway. A powerful four-day storm in 1933 didn’t change this situation, but it dramatically reshaped the physical lay of the land. Wind and water cut an inlet on the southern edge of town that revived fishing and turned the Assateague peninsula into Assateague Island, giving geographic justification for protecting that spit of land. The completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 1952 and Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1964 opened the entire Delmarva Peninsula to the rest of the country, and, by the 1970s, Ocean City was a glittering condo canyon. With the end of the Cold War, Ocean City became a popular place for young Eastern Europeans with work visas, which explains all that Slovakian slang you sometimes hear. Today Ocean City is, to put it lightly, over-developed, a situation that hasn’t been particularly kind to the beaches.
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