OCEAN CITY — The grounds of the Bayside Center at 520 Bay Ave. are open this summer for camps and waterfront views, but the building itself remains closed.
Last year, the century-old former home was closed due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
This year, the building is shut for a different reason.
“The interior of the Bayside Center is closed to the public this summer to allow for installation of a state-mandated fire suppression system,” said Doug Bergen, the city’s spokesperson.
The city put the project out to bid but received no bids by the deadline of July 8. Plans are to try again. The city will have to redraft the request for proposals before setting a new date for a bid opening.
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“The city hopes to have work completed this fall,” Bergen said, adding local officials hope to fully fund the project with a state Community Development Block Grant.
Meanwhile, events and activities continue outside the building. On a recent weekday morning, Ocean City Sailing Foundation participants launched from the boat ramp at the center, and camps take place at the center each week through Aug. 13.
Ocean City High School students are raising shellfish at the center, and the property will be open as a viewing area for the annual Night in Venice boat parade on July 24.
Inside, there have been environmental displays, including tanks of local bay life, and the Ocean City Beach Patrol Museum is on the first floor. Some items from the museum, including a century-old lifeboat, have been moved to the Ocean City Historical Museum for the summer.
“It’s essentially on loan from the lifeguard museum, knowing that the Bayside Center wasn’t going to be open to the public,” said Kate Devaney, director of the Historical Museum in the Ocean City Community Center at 1735 Simpson Ave.
Admission is free, she said, adding the museum has other lifeguard items, including a display on the evolution of the rescue can, the torpedo-shaped floatation device that has become a vital tool in many ocean rescues.
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The lifeboat dates from around 1920, Devaney said, and was taken out of service in 1937. It was essentially a decoration at the former lifeguard headquarters for years, occasionally used for lifeguard races, before being declared no longer seaworthy in the 1970s.
John Carey, a well-known figure in Ocean City lifeguard history, later restored the boat.
The Historical Museum has multiple other displays as well, including items recovered from the Sindia, Ocean City’s most famous shipwreck, which ran aground in the early hours of Dec. 15, 1901, near 17th Street on the last leg of a trip from Japan to New York.
The three-story building at the Bayside Center was built around 1916, according to information posted on the city’s website. It was a private home for the Diesel family before being purchased by the Wheaton family in 1958. The 1.35-acre property was purchased by Cape May County through the New Jersey Open Space and Farmland Preservation Program in 1995 and opened to the public.
The property is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily.
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