OCEAN CITY — Workers used a blowtorch to cut off fire escapes and an excavating machine to tear down walls as demolition of the Bellevue Hotel began Thursday afternoon.

The structure dates to 1908 but it has been falling apart in recent years. It has been closed for a year, and the city ordered its knockdown three weeks after inspections found it in danger of collapse.

It started to come down Thursday with little fanfare. Muriel Smith, of Upper Township, a former Ocean City resident, was one of the only people to stop by and watch the building go.

“It’s a shame,” she said. “That’s what happens when you don’t take care of things.”

The building is owned by a Pennsylvania-based company Ocean City Plaza LLC. A local attorney representing the company, Clement Lisitski, did not return a call to his office placed Thursday afternoon.

The city hired a contractor for $158,000 to demolish the property, and it will place a lien on the land until that price is paid.

There is no indication yet what will come next for the northeast corner of Eighth Street and Ocean Avenue, a prime piece of real estate in the center of the island just off its main entrance. The property was last assessed at $2.2 million, and the hotel was listed for sale in June at $2.4 million.

Demolition was delayed as crews had to remove extensive asbestos from the building. More will be removed and trucked away as work continues.

The process will take as many as three weeks. It will be torn down with the claw of the excavator taking chunks out of it.

The 700 block of Ocean Avenue will be closed during demolition. Police initially announced that Eighth Street would be closed as well, but it was not closed Thursday and may not be.

The structural problem with the building is apparent on the side facing Ocean Avenue. The exterior wall bows out like a bubble after hundreds to thousands of pounds of water sat for days on the roof and undermined its supports.

That part of the structure will not be ripped down for some time as crews start work from the rear of the building, facing the ocean, and work their way to the front.

Not much was done Thursday as workers pulled off vinyl siding and insulation. The fist large pieces of the building should be ripped off today.

“That’s when it will really start chomping at it,” said city Business Administrator Mike Dattilo, who briefly arrived to watch the scene Thursday.

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