HistoryThere is some debate as to exactly when The Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce was formed. It is generally believed that a group of businessmen led by W. I. Donohoe (owner of the Plimhimmon Hotel and retired Methodist minister) conceived of the idea in the late 1940's. However, it was not until 1950 that the Chamber was formally founded. Mr. Donohoe served as the Chamber's first president.
Prior to 1950, though Ocean City had long since been recognized as an emerging resort destination, attempts at marketing and promoting tourism had been haphazard at best. Mail inquiries to the resort regarding business and vacation opportunities were not properly handled. Often, many would go unanswered.
Consequently, a group of businessmen including Mr. Donohoe, Preston Adkins (machine shop owner), Dale Ayers (realtor/rooming house owner), W. Preston Laws (grocer), Frank Sacca (owner of Adelphi Restaurant), D. Pasher Bishop (original owner of the English Diner) and Albert Berger (realtor) started to discuss the possibility of forming an entity which could systematically handle the growing volume of vacation inquiries. They also sought, much like today, to promote Ocean City as a viable off-season destination.
Most of these discussions took place in the old school house on 3rd Street & Baltimore Avenue; today we refer to it as City Hall. Occasionally, they would convene in the back of Mr. Adkins machine shop located on the corner of St. Louis and Talbot Streets. Finally, after much talk, their concept of an Ocean City Chamber of Commerce became reality. For the first seven years (1950-57) of the organizations existence, the Board of Directors met in the second floor apartment of Elsie Kline, the Chamber's first hired employee (though initially she was unpaid barring expenses.) She inherited the job from her husband, Russell, who had been elected Secretary Pro-tem in 1950. A career move dictated he spend much of his time away from Ocean City on business. The position of secretary then became Mrs. Kline's by default. During her thirty years of service to the Chamber (1950-82) she was credited with being the "glue" that held the organization together. The Chamber's Route 50 office was dedicated in her honor in 1982.
At the outset, the Chamber boasted 50 members - virtually all of the hotels, motels, inns, rooming houses and restaurants that were open at the time. In order to spread their message more effectively, the membership decided to publish an advertising handbook describing all the amenities Ocean City had to offer. The first edition of the Ocean City Guide came out in 1953 with a distribution of 10,000 books. By the late '50's, Elsie and her staff could offer the membership a variety of services including the Guide, referrals, inquiry list and a forum for customer relations.
There was one critical element missing - a bona fide visitor center. Mrs. Kline's second-floor apartment was by no means adequate to handle the hordes of tourists flocking to Ocean City. Anticipating the need for larger office space, the founding fathers had purchased a plot of land in 1953. Located in West Ocean City, the property was initially thought to be ill-positioned to serve the Chamber in any useful manner. Despite much debate among the membership, construction began in 1961 on the first of the structures that would become the present day offices of the Chamber.
Dedicated in 1962 by Maryland Governor Tawes, the facility was hailed as the prototype for visitor centers yet to be built. Most of the funds necessary to construct the offices came from Guide Book ad sales. However, there was another source of funding that provides a glimpse into the political realities of that era. Built during the height of the Cold War, the Chamber visitor center was also designed to serve as a bomb shelter. Federal and state monies were allocated to the Chamber for this purpose. Having been sealed off decades ago, the subterranean structure was located beneath the present day boardroom.
The current structural make-up of the Chamber offices is the result of not less than four renovations and/or additions undertaken on the facility. The steady increase in the volume of traffic on Route 50 made these alterations mandatory. As we enter the next millennium, it has become evident that another renovation will not be cost effective. With the need for a new Chamber building, Vision 2000 was launched. Relying on donations from the business community, golf tournaments, and other activities, the building fund continues to grow as plans for the construction of a visitor's center behind the existing building move forward.
Today, The Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce is casting its eye beyond promoting tourism. With the growth of Ocean City as a vacation destination, the need for an advocate for business has become more evident. While tourism will always be a primary focus of the Chamber, the businesses that continue to serve tourists and residents alike can look to The Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce for the representation of their interest. The innovators of this institution were unanimous in their conviction that Ocean City could - someday - become a premier vacation destination. And through a combination of hard work and good fortune, their dream came true.
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Interesting facts about Ocean City Maryland
- The boardwalk benches from the Coast Guard Museum north to Thrasher's all face the boardwalk. From the Northside of the Pier Building (Ripley's) to 4th Street there are benches facing both the boardwalk and the ocean. From 4th Street North to the end of the boardwalk all of the benches face the boardwalk; the sea wall runs from 4th Street North and is about hip high; therefore sitting on a bench facing the ocean; you would not be able to see very much. At one time the benches from 4th Street North were flip back benches; meaning the back could move so that you could sit facing either direction; however in order to make the seating on the boardwalk more aesthetically pleasing per the Boardwalk Development Association those benches were done away with and a more decorative bench was used that does not give you the ability to face either direction.
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Forecast:Mon - Isolated Thunderstorms. High: 71 Low: 65
Tue - Partly Cloudy. High: 73 Low: 65