Ocean City, New Jersey

The Untold History

In 1700, whaler John Peck began using the barrier island as a storage place for freshly caught whales. Eventually known as Peck’s Beach, the island had several purposes: it was an Indian summer fishing camp, cattle-grazing area, and sometimes mainlanders would boat over for a picnic or to hunt.

In the mid-19th century, Parker Miller and his family became the first year-round residents. The Millers lived at what is now the corner of Seventh Street and Asbury Avenue. Parker worked as an agent for marine insurance companies, raised cattle and farmed.

In 1879, four Methodist ministers (Ezra B. Lake, James Lake, S. Wesley Lake and William Burrell) purchased Peck’s Beach to create a Christian seaside resort and camp meeting place. The men came together under a cedar tree (which still stands at 6th and Asbury) and formed the Ocean City Association. The group built streets and sold commercial and residential lots. They built the Tabernacle, which still remains between 5th and 6th Streets and Asbury Avenue. Camp meetings began the following summer. Soon residents built homes, hotels, bridges, railroads and schools. The boardwalk was built and rebuilt several times due to damage from natural disasters.

In 1901, the legendary Sindia ship came close to shore and sunk. Part of its mast remained above the ocean to onlookers’ delight. Only recently did the Sindia sink completely underwater.

Part of the original four’s wish, that Ocean City remain a pure retreat that exemplified the Christian mindset, still remains today as strong as the cedar tree they first met under. Historically, Ocean City is a dry town—there is no public drinking anywhere on the island. Some residents and tourists alike seem to appreciate this law that sets the island apart from any of its surrounding towns.

Visit the Ocean City Historical Museum at the Community Center, 17th & Simpson, or online at https://www.ocnjmuseum.org/ for a complete history of Ocean City.

The History of Ocean City, New Jersey

Fun Facts About Ocean City

How much do you know about Ocean City, New Jersey? We have all the facts here to help you pass a quiz – if there were one – on this hotspot that’s just waiting for you to visit! Check out the info below and learn about Ocean City’s interesting history. Fun Facts About Ocean City, New Jersey:

Ocean City was originally called Peck’s Beach in the 1700s. People used the island to fish, graze cattle, picnic and hunt. No one lived there year-round at this point, because it simply wasn’t considered hospitable. Instead, they lived in nearby towns and visited when they wanted a respite, much like seasonal visitors do today.

By the middle of the 1800s, Ocean City became home to the Miller family. They were the first residents to stay on the island twelve months out of the year. The father of the family, Parker, was a marine insurance company agent who farmed and had cattle. By all accounts, they weren’t the only residents for long. Other settlers followed the Millers’ lead and turned the island into their residences.

As of the late 1800s, Peck’s Island was purchased by a group of people to become a Christian-based resort. The buyers of the island built it up, selling to more families and business persons. This enabled the infrastructure of the town to start and the seeds of what we can see today were definitely sown.

Is Ocean City, NJ a dry town? Ocean City is considered a dry town, meaning that public drinking is forbidden on the island. No restaurants sell alcohol, and it is banned on the beaches. This is believed to be a carry-over from the religious families who populated the area in the late 19th century. Therefore, residents and tourists who wish to purchase and publicly drink alcohol must go to adjoining cities.

By 1883, the first bridge to the island was finally built. Before then, the only way to reach the island was by ferry. The bridge not only made the island more accessible for people who wanted to live there, but also for people who just wanted to see what all the fuss was about!

Between 1890 and 1910, the population of Ocean City grew approximately 230 percent to more than 11,000 individuals. Its growing population reveals a lot about its increasing popularity.

The mast of the Sindia ship that sank outside of Ocean City in 1901 was visible until just a few years ago when the boat was finally completely submerged. The sinking made papers far and wide in the turn of the century, although it has been fairly forgotten nationally. To learn more about it, visit the Ocean City Historical Society.

In 1901, Ocean City enjoyed its first baby parade.

The fire of 1927 destroyed much of historic Ocean City. What visitors see today is much different than what their ancestors would have enjoyed. The boardwalk had to be rebuilt, which was finished between 1928 and 1929.

Over time, the famous boardwalk along the shores of Ocean City has been rebuilt many times. Natural disasters such as Nor’easters were the cause of the boardwalk’s destruction.

Playland at Ocean City boasted a skating rink during the 1940s. It also once had a bowling alley which has now been taken down. Many generations of visitors to Ocean City still remember Playland fondly for all its amenities.

The first hotel on the Ocean City boardwalk was the Breakers on Delancey. It opened in 1912 and closed 58 years later in 1970.

Gillian’s first ride was a Ferris wheel. Imagine how exciting it must have been for the first riders to be able to witness Ocean City in all its glory from so high above the crowds!

Ocean City, New Jersey is considered a family-friendly beach, partially because of its dry nature and partially because it has always been a beacon for families looking for an affordable way to take their loved ones to the seashore. In fact, The Travel Channel honored Ocean City as “The No. 1 family beach community in the country” as well the “Best Family Beach of 2005.”

Ocean City offers eight miles of shoreline, and two-and-a-half miles are accompanied by the famous Boardwalk. This makes the Boardwalk a wonderful place for a stroll or a jog. Bike riders also appreciate the Boardwalk, and shoppers love to check out the many stores that dot it.

Concerts are performed year-round along the Boardwalk. The city is home to the organization called the Ocean City Pops, and the music they create always makes everyone smile!

Some famous Ocean City part- and full-time residents include actress Grace Kelly, Detroit Lions kicker David Akers, and the inventor of bubble gum Walter Diemer.

few must-see tourist attractions in Ocean City are the Atlantic City Aquarium, the Historic Smithville Village Greene, the Boardwalk, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Storybook Land. Of course, there are so many other locations and attractions that can match your family’s interests.

Over the years, Ocean City, New Jersey, has received many official honors. In 2009, it won the Top 10 Beaches Contest. In 2008, it won the third best beach in New Jersey in a Top 10 Beaches Contest. While awards like these are always appreciated, it’s the many social media posts from visitors to Ocean City that are helping to drive its popularity even more!

There’s little doubt that Ocean City has established a place for itself in history. It’s truly part of Americana in so many ways. For families who want to feel the historical ambiance that this great little seaside city provides, Ocean City is awaiting you. Find a place to stay with your family at Ocean City, New Jersey.

Ocean City, NJ Official Visitor's Guide 2023 blue arrow
Official 2024

Visitor’s Guide

The Ocean City Visitor’s Guide provides information on Ocean City accommodations, dining, activities and events.

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