JANUARY 1, 1915, Mayor Harry Headley officially opened Ocean City’s $75,000 City Hall. Headley, and Commissioner R. Howard Thorn and Commissioner Robert Fisher led tours of the beautiful three-story building.
It was a red-letter day for Mayor Headley who had been pushing for the building since being elected mayor in 1911. He and the commissioners had been conducting city business from rented space in the Massey & Edwards Building located on the corner of 8th Street and Central Avenue. They believed the time had come to build a city hall. Many people disagreed and they demanded a special election so the citizens could approve or disapprove.
On August 1, 1913, voters went to the polls. The ballot question included: “The total expenditure for the erection and furnishing of said City Hall shall not exceed the sum of seventy-five thousand dollars.” The vote was 216 for and 183 against.
Architect Vivian B. Smith was disappointed at the $75,000 limit. He had to change his original plan which included a six-story tower topped with a golden dome.
On November 25, 1913, the building contract was awarded to John W. Emery. The following week work began on first City Hall. It was on the corner of 9th Street and Asbury Avenue. On April 11, 1914, Mayor Headley laid the cornerstone.
Before the grand opening a beautiful water fountain donated by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was installed on the corner of 9th Street and Asbury Avenue. The WCTU presented the fountain to the city in 1912, but Mayor Headley placed it in storage until the City Hall was built.
On January 2, 1915, the new building was the subject of an editorial in the Ocean City Ledger: “The new City Hall has called forth the applause of the visitors during its entire building and we are sure it will stand as a memorial to the builders, the City Fathers, and all concerned, for many years to come. While it may seem like an expensive luxury for so young a city, yet on the principle that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well, we are sure the results will prove the wisdom of such an expense. We feel sure the city has made no mistake in putting up a building in harmony with our schools, churches, banks and our private homes. Such a city hall on our central streets will appeal to business men and to capitalists, thousands of investors and visitors will feel the power of such a beautiful and convenient structure in the heart of our already solid city. It is surely an indication that we are a strong, growing, united, stirring people. A city whose taxables are fast approaching $10,000,000 figures can and must have up to date buildings. We are sure a City Hall of which the city is justly proud. We are sure much credit must be given to Mayor Headley and the other Commissioners.”
Four months after the opening of City Hall, Headley, Thorn and Fisher were voted out of office. Former Mayor Joseph G. Champion, George O. Adams and William H. Campbell were elected. The new city official picked Champion to be the mayor of Ocean City.