Ocean City Scores State Grant To Overhaul Former Bank Building For Museum Use

Ocean City Scores State Grant To Overhaul Former Bank Building For Museum Use
An image shows an exterior restoration rendering for the former Bank of Ocean City branch. Submitted Rendering

OCEAN CITY – Officials say a $150,000 grant will be used to begin exterior improvements on the former Bank of Ocean City building, donated to the town last year for the exclusive use of the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum.

Earlier this month, Gov. Larry Hogan announced more than $9 million in strategic demolition grants awarded to 27 projects throughout the state. Among the award recipients was the Town of Ocean City, which scored $150,000 in funding for the revitalization of the former Bank of Ocean City building on the corner of Dorchester Street and South Baltimore Avenue.

“It’s been two years in the making,” said Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum Curator Christine Okerblom. “This money will specifically be used for the exterior of the building and restoring the façade.”

In December 2019, the Bank of Ocean City closed its downtown branch. But instead of selling the property, it was donated to the Town of Ocean City for the museum’s use.

“The Bank of Ocean City, when they decided they couldn’t have this branch anymore, could’ve done a number of things with the building, including just boarding it up,” said museum board member John Fager. “They were generous in saying ‘Hey, would the museum like to have this as a museum?’”


The former Bank of Ocean City branch at Dorchester Street is pictured. Photo by Bethany Hooper

For decades, the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum has operated from its current location on the south end of the Boardwalk. The building – which was once a working lifesaving station – is home to exhibits and events highlighting the history of Worcester County’s coastal region.

But officials say access to the museum, as well as its exhibit space, is limited. To that end, officials have plans to add a stair tower and elevator to its existing facility. They also have plans to convert the former bank building into a second location for exhibits and programming.

“We have a warehouse that has a lot of great artifacts and we don’t have room for them,” Fager said. “So not only will we be able to store the artifacts we’re not using on the second floor, but we’ll be able to have things here that we can actually display.”

As discussions continue on how to utilize the interior space, plans to renovate the building’s exterior are moving forward with the help of the $150,000 strategic demolition grant.

“It will say to people, ‘Step back in time. This is what Ocean City looked like,’” said Nancy Howard, board member emeritus for the museum.

Officials noted the town had initially applied for the grant funding last year, but when their application was denied they decided to reapply this year. With the $150,000 award, they say the bidding process can begin in earnest in early 2022.

“We would like to get as much done as we can before the season,” Howard said. “Hopefully it will go quickly.”

Fager said plans for the building’s exterior include the removal of the two-story columns and the construction of a second-story porch, bringing the structure back to its original design.

“This is one of the town’s original blocks …,” he said. “So this is like a little piece people can relate to and say ‘Gee, this is how Ocean City started. This is one of the original blocks and this is what the architecture looked like.’ There’s just very little of that left in Ocean City.”

Howard agreed, noting that the project goes hand in hand with revitalization efforts.

“We’ve been talking about helping downtown Ocean City for years …,” she said. “Hopefully this will be one of those building blocks that will make downtown a really vibrant place for the city.”

In addition to the Bank of Ocean City, officials recognized the Mayor and City County, Ocean City Grants Coordinator Wayne Pryor and the Ocean City Development Corporation for their support.

“Our mission is to preserve the history of Ocean City,” Okerblom added. “I can’t think of a better way of achieving our mission than restoring an old building downtown.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.