OCEAN CITY — An era ended in this resort last week as Ocean Rest Educational Center, the retreat of the De La Salle Christian Brothers for more than a century, was demolished to make way for a subdivision of duplexes.
On Saturday morning, the buildings were still standing. By nightfall, they were a pile of rubble, with a solitary landscape painting leaning against one of the destroyed walls.
The two three-story buildings between 30th and 31st streets on Central Avenue fell into disrepair in the last decade as costs to maintain the facility outpaced the brothers’ ability to pay for them. Originally, the brothers proposed selling one building and renovating the other, but a multimillion-dollar retrofitting to update the 19th century plumbing, bring the building to fire code, and install heating and air conditioning proved too expensive for the charitable order.
In June 2013, the Planning Board approved a subdivision plan for four duplexes on the island’s largest residential lot. The oceanfront tract, assessed at $4.3 million, measures 235 by 190 feet.
The Christian Brothers have been in the same location in Ocean City for 116 years. Before they purchased the iconic property in 1898, it was owned by department store millionaire John Wanamaker. The chapel on the property was added in 1906 and a summer school built in1926.