Ocean City and Assateague Island
Dynamic Sustainability: Shoreline Management on Maryland's Atlantic Coast
1524-1875, Discovery and Early Settlement
Fenwick Island was very sparsely populated for most of the historical period. It was likely first discovered by Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524, and later in the 17th century it was known to the Virginia colonists, who had already established settlements farther south. But there wasn't really any settlement on Fenwick Island to speak of. Settlers used the Eastern Shore barriers as grazing land because there were no fees or fencing laws for keeping animals on the uninhabited spits and islands. As a result, colonists released their cows, sheep, and horses on Fenwick Island to avoid paying the mainland fees and taxes.
After the Civil War, Fenwick Island and a portion of the surrounding territory on the mainland was bought by a man named Stephen Taber. Around the same time, Col. Lemuel Showell and four associates founded the Atlantic Hotel Company Corporation in 1868 with the idea of opening a hotel on Fenwick Island. Taber deeded some of his territory to the group for their hotel, which they opened in 1875. Named the Atlantic Hotel, it was the first development on the barrier.