The Brightside: Henry’s Hotel
To look at this three-story brown building across from Trimper’s rides in Ocean City, you can’t see the deep and rich history held inside.
The Henry’s Hotel looks like a house but this 20-room building played a major role in Black History.
Decades ago, the town only allowed Blacks to vacation at certain times of the year.
“They were called ‘Negro Excursion Days’. and they allowed that to happen at Labor Day. After Labor Day, Ocean City as it was, was just kind of rolled up. But the Maryland people and Delaware people were allowed a day after Labor Day.”, says local historian, Gregory Purnell.
World renowned performers like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Lionel Hampton frequently came to the town for shows but weren’t allowed to stay at any of the hotels.
“Now they could come and play for the elite but they were not afforded any other rights civil or social. after they packed that horn up.”, recounts Purnell.
Researcher Aaron Horner says that’s why publications like the Green Book were created to help black travelers easily find friendly businesses like the Henry Hotel.
“The Green Books were something that were published in the mid-twentieth century. they were guides to help African Americans who were traveling at home or abroad to destinations across the country and internationally.”, says Horner.
According to records found at the NABB Center in Salisbury, the building was sold to African American businessman, Charles Henry back in 1926 for just $10.
Back then it was called, Henry’s Colored Hotel but in 1954 Pearl Bonner bought it and changed the name to Henry’s Hotel.
Today, the same family still owns the building but it hasn’t had a visitor in over a decade.
Locals like, Glenn Irwin would like to see it preserved in an official way.
“Its got a prime location, very visible. We have spoken with the Bonner Family a number of times through one of the board members that passed away, Tom Davis, about trying to get the building preserved on the National Registry, but the Bonner Family preferred to keep it in private hands.”, says Glenn Irwin.
Today, the nearly 100 year old structure sits quietly on the corner of Division and Baltimore.
Some people are concerned that the hotel’s story will be lost and want to make sure everyone knows how important it is.
“That’s really our goal is to make sure these sites that really tell such a great story are around for a really long time because its part of who were are.”, says Lisa Challenger.