Ocean City, New Jersey is a city located in Cape May County, along the Atlantic Ocean. It is the principal city of the Ocean City Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Cape May County. As of the United States 2000 Census, the city population was 15,378 in the winter months. A very popular tourist center, in the summer months Ocean City’s population has been estimated to reach 115,000 to 130,000.
Known first as Peck’s Beach, a seven-mile stretch of sand dunes, meadows and cedar swamps was probably named for John Peck, a whaler who used the island as a staging spot for his whaling operation. Prior to Peck’s arrival, the island had served as a summer fishing camp for local Indians, a grazing land for cattle driven out from the mainland and an occasional hunting or picnic spot for mainland residents who would come out by boat. Original registered ownership of the land was by the Somers family.
Several individuals had made their home on the island, most notable of which was Parker Miller who had served as an agent for marine insurance companies. He and his family lived in a home at about what is now the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Asbury Avenue. In 1879, four Methodist ministers, Ezra B. Lake, James Lake, S. Wesley Lake and William Burrell chose the island as a suitable spot to establish a Christian retreat and camp meeting on the order of Ocean Grove. They met under a tall cedar tree, which stands today at 6th Street and Asbury Avenue. Having chosen the name “Ocean City”, the founders incorporated the “Ocean City Association”, laid out street and lots for cottages, hotel and businesses. The Tabernacle was built between Wesley and Asbury Avenues and between 5th and 6th Streets. Camp Meetings were held by the following summer.
From these beginnings, Ocean City has grown into the town as it exists today. The first bridge was built to the island in 1883, while the first railroad soon followed. The first school began in 1881. Ocean City was originally formed as a borough by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature on May 3, 1884, from portions of Upper Township, based on the results of a referendum held on April 30, 1884, and was reincorporated as a borough on March 31, 1890. Ocean City was incorporated as a city, its current type of government, on March 25, 1897.
The boardwalk grew and was relocated several times. The ship Sindia joined other shipwrecks on the beach on December 15, 1901, on its way to New York City from Kobe, Japan, but has since sunk below the sand. A failed salvage attempt was launched in the 1970s, but none have been tried since. It was assumed by treasure hunters that after sailing back from Asia large amounts of treasure and plunder from the Boxer Rebellion had been on board, although both crew and captain said otherwise.
Today, the seaside beach resort of Ocean City, New Jersey is more than 125 years old, yet it has been living up to its claim for generations as “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” Ocean City has a reputation as a particularly family-friendly destination because the sale of alcoholic beverages has been prohibited within its limits since the city’s founding in 1879. Carving a niche in the ideal family vacation, Ocean City’s eight miles of pristine beaches and incomparable calendar of events combine to provide tons of fun for the whole family. When the beach day is over, the clean, well-maintained boardwalk comes alive with a family-friendly atmosphere for visitors of all ages to enjoy. The Travel Channel rated Ocean City as the Best Family Beach of 2005.
Ocean City, New Jersey, has also been home, or home-away-from-home, for many famous American athletes and personalities including Philadelphia Eagles kicker David Akers and running back Brian Westbrook, 3-time NHL MVP Bobby Clarke, Pat Croce, former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, poet Stephen Dunn, the lovely and highly popular Princess of Monaco and American actress Grace Kelly, and acting icon Jimmy Stewart, who spend summers at his family’s Ocean City vacation home during his youth.
Ocean City is approximately 22 miles from Brigantine Island, NJ.