Ocean City – Flagler BeachFlagler Beach

Ocean City was a small settlement on present-day Moody Boulevard on the west side of the Intracoastal Canal. It is now known as Flagler Beach. In 1942 volunteer flyers fought German submarines from an airstrip in Flagler Beach

Flagler Casino & Pier

Ocean City was a small settlement on present-day Moody Boulevard on the west side of the Intracoastal Canal. 

In the early 1910s, Mr. and Mrs. William Archie Cook man purchased seven, acres of land from the Bunnell Development Company and planted an orange grove on Lambert Street about a mile north of the present bridge.

Mr. and Mrs. Austin Vanburen Wickline, who had resided in Dupont and Haw Creek for a short time, also purchased several lots and built a home there in 1913. They were located on Lambert Street about 300 feet north of the present bridge. They later added a room to be used as a store. The Ocean City Post Office was established on 30 Jan 1915 and housed in the Wickline store. Mrs. Wickline, the former Esther “Etta” Chaffee, was appointed Postmaster.

With the fast-moving development of Bunnell and the surrounding farming area, Isaac I. Moody’s younger brother George envisioned the development of the coastline as a beach resort, vacation, and land tourist area. After investigation, he found the land east of the Inland Navigation Canal could only be acquired through homesteading and in September of 1913 he made application to homestead 169 acres of land which included one mile of ocean frontage extending west to the marshland.

With the raw, undeveloped land and no access to the beach came the tedious task of transporting needed materials to erect the buildings in the homestead agreement. Cement and other supplies were shipped from Jacksonville by freight boats which served the waterway from Jacksonville south two days each week.

After the concrete blocks were made, Mr. Moody’s father-in-law, Leonard Miles, a brick mason of Baxley, Georgia, came down to lay the blocks for the first home to be built in Ocean City Beach, which was to become Flagler Beach in 1923. The five-room house was located on the corner of what is now known as Highway A1A and Second Street just north of the present municipal pier. The family moved into the home in February 1914.

To make the beach accessible, Mr. Moody built a ferry boat large enough to transport an automobile across the canal, and a corduroy road across the narrow part of the marshland.  Austin Wickline operated the ferry for many months

The beach proved to be a very popular spot for the people of the surrounding area and Bunnell where they enjoyed picnics, surf bathing, camping, and fishing. Mr. Moody soon added a garage, showers and dressing rooms for the convenience of the visitors.

Within the first year, William A. Cochran had homesteaded a mile of ocean frontage on the north, Luther Orlando Upson and John M. Fuquay of Daytona Beach, each homesteaded a half-mile of ocean frontage to the south of Mr. Moody. These homestead lands and the Ocean City area comprise today’s Flagler Beach.       

During 1916, George Moody built the Ocean City Beach Casino as a recreation center. The building was 75′ by 150′ and faced the ocean with a side entrance on Moody Boulevard. The building had a floor for dancing and skating, a refreshment center, fifty dressing rooms, several showers, and a small living quarter’s area. This was later sold to Smiley Armstrong Baker, Sr., who added an ocean fishing pier to the property. The pier was destroyed in the mid-1920s by a hurricane. The present Municipal Fishing Pier which was constructed in 1928 is located one block south of the first pier.

Many improvements and additions were made over the next few years. The first bridge, a swing bridge, over the canal to the beach was completed in 1920 using funds from the Haw Creek special and road which provided that all bridges would be free public bridges.

In Jun 1921, the charter was received for the Ocean City Improvement Company listing George Moody, president, Robert Lee Harper, vice president, and attorney Claude Grady Varn as secretary and treasurer. The company was capitalized at $50,000 and proposed to “develop Ocean City Beach by building streets and sidewalks, cottage and other dwellings, hotel; to install light and water plants, construct parks, causeways, lakes and other things for the beautification of one of the finest townsites along the east coast of Florida….” Mr. and Mrs. Milo Seckner were the first customers of this new company.

In Jul 1921, the directors of the Ocean City Improvement Company decided to erect a 30-room hotel to be….of the American Colonial Type…and to be thoroughly modern in all respects with fire protection and electrically lighted from cellar to garret.” The site of the hotel was to be just opposite the Casino, facing the Atlantic about 150 (yards, though not indicated in the newspaper article) from the ocean barrier (site of the present weekend Farmer’s Market).

Public records show that in Aug 1921, George Moody appeared before the board of county commissioners and stated that he understood that the board was contemplating charging tolls on the Ocean City Bridge on account of not having enough money on hand sufficient to pay the bridge tender. He stated that A. V. Wickline would accept the position for $25 per month which price was $20 less per month than they were paying to their present bridge tender. 

Construction of the Flagler Beach Hotel was begun by Dana Fellows Fuquay and George Moody. Mr. Moody sold his share to Mr. Fuquay before it was completed in 1924. A gala opening celebration was held on July 4, 1925 (the hotel was purchased in Nov 1945 by J. W. Green and son W. M. Green of Atlanta – it had been formerly owned by W. H. Barnes of Rockford, IL)

Mr. Moody began construction of a business and hotel building across the highway from the pier with only a quarter of the building was erected before the famous boom busted. The building was sold in 1945 to Mr. and Mrs. Waiter Landers. The hotel was subsequently torn down and replaced by the NationsBank building.

Flagler Beach became an incorporated town on April 16, 1925. The first town officials were: George Moody, Mayor; Councilmen were Charles Parker, Harry Wallace Sessions, Robert W. Raulerson, Dewey D. Moody, and Luther O. Upson.           

A one-room school served Flagler Beach for a number of years. The county built the present school building in 1925. Several classrooms and the cafetorium were added later. The old school building and some other buildings added later are now known as the Wickline Center.

George Moody at the age of 34 began the development of Flagler Beach. He was actively identified with the town’s development during the years serving as mayor and also as a member of the city commission for many years. At the age of 74, he began the development of the marshland north of Moody Boulevard which is now known as Venice Park and Palm Harbor. Most all of the lots in the subdivisions were designed for a street frontage and a water frontage.

For a more detailed account of the history of Flagler Beach, please see “A New Beginning – A Picturesque History of Flagler Beach, Florida” by Catherine Wickline Wilson. Copies are on sale at the Flagler Beach Museum and at the Flagler County Historical Society (Holden House) in Bunnell.

In 1942 an air mail emergency landing field near present 13th street south was opened for 17,000 flight hours of combat against German submarines raiding the Florida Coast in 1942. This is the journal of the Flagler Civil Air Patrol that was stationed at Flagler Beach. A full display of this event is offered at The Flagler Beach Historical Museum.

Author: Sisco Deen

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