On Dec. 30, Jackie McCloskey Mittleman, 55, of Ocean City, donated a five-pound brick to the Ocean City Historical Museum.
For more than five years, McCloskey Mittleman said she had kept the brick in a corner of her backyard, used as a decoration in her outdoor garden. She had collected the brick, and a few others like it, from a demolition site at 26th and Wesley Avenue in the fall of 2005.
McCloskey Mittleman handed over the brick, topped with bits of snow and ice from being outside, to Ocean City Historical Museum director and curator Rachel Dolhanczyk.
Dolhanczyk meticulously catalogued the donation and logged it into the museum's database, now a formally noted piece of Ocean City history.
"I was so angry when I heard they tore that house down," McCloskey Mittleman said. "I marched right over and took bricks right from the Dumpster."
The brick, McCloskey Mittleman said, came from the demolition site of one of two Ocean City homes once belonging to the family of American actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, 1929-1982.
The Kelly family owned summer residences in the resort, including one still standing, under new ownership, at 2536 Wesley Ave.
The McCloskey family has owned a home in Ocean City since 1958, in which she has lived full time since the early 1990s. McCloskey Mittleman recalls that as a child spending her summers at the shore, she heard "the legend of the Princess of Ocean City."
"History happened here," she said. "It's almost an eerie feeling to think that you have stood where she has stood. The idea almost gives off a sense of hope that you too can be a princess."
McCloskey Mittleman said when they tore down the beachfront home at 26th and Wesley - where the bricks came from - she felt like the island was losing a bit of history with it.
"I firmly believe it was a sin when they tore that house down," Mittleman said. "Grace Kelly is a part of Ocean City, and her legacy here should live on forever."
The Kelly family, a well-to-do, Irish-Catholic family from Philadelphia, vacationed in Ocean City for the sand and sun.
As a child and young adult, Grace Kelly, one of the four children, spent her summer days riding her bike up and down the Boardwalk, working as a waitress at a local restaurant and soaking up the summer sun.
In the 1950s, at age 20, Grace Kelly embarked on an acting career that led to a life of theater, film and fame. Later, she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco, crowning her a real-life princess.
But despite her fame and fortune, Kelly never said goodbye to her Ocean City days, McCloskey Mittleman said.
She said, as the tale goes, the Princess would come with her own children, Prince Albert and Princesses Caroline and Stephanie, for two weeks each summer to vacation on the island.
"It was a place where the children could go and just be kids," McCloskey said. "The rest of their life was probably about ritual and formality. Here it's all about fun family. That's the wonderful thing. You don't have to worry about the bars or the casinos. You ride your bike, go to the beach, go to church and be a family."
Photographs have captured some of these moments, McCloskey Mittleman said, but for the most part, Ocean City was the one place where the Princess of Monaco and her family could live a normal life.
"There was an unwritten law on the island that you were not to bug them," she said.
"There weren't paparazzi and all that jazz. They were normal back on beach."
The brick will be added to the Ocean City Historical Museum's Princess Grace Exhibit, Dolhanczyk said. The exhibit includes several photographs of the princess and family on the island, memorabilia from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA, a nonprofit the princess created to help aspiring artists, and a replica of the princess' wedding gown donated by a Elizabeth Barrandcas, of Maryland, an admirer of Kelly who had a replica of the dress made for her own wedding.
Next to the replica, which is on a mannequin, is a photo of Grace Kelly in her gown, which was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Dolhanczyk said many people, especially baby boomers, still remember the period when Grace Kelly graced Ocean City.
"She will always be a part of our museum," she said.
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