historical photo of crowd around showell swimming pool
historical photo of crowded Ocean City boardwalk and beach
photo of John Dale Showell, III and Ann Showel smiling in formal wear
historical photo of The Castle in the Sand Motel exterior view from beach
historical photo of Castle in the Sand boardwalk patio
historical photo of beachgoers with Castle in the Sand in the background
historical photo of view from the ocean of Castle in the Sand
contemporary photo of view from the ocean of Castle in the Sand
historical photo of railroad extension to Ocean City barrier island

The Showell Family came to Worcester County in 1683 after receiving a land grant from the Crown of England. The farm they started in what is now Showell, Maryland was over 10,000 acres in size and very successful. Lemuel Showell, a descendant, was involved in shipping and transportation. He was President of the C&P Railroad which helped take goods to market and passengers around the Delmarva Peninsula. After the successful beginning of Atlantic City, New Jersey, a group of investors approached a lawyer from New York, Mr. Tabor, who owned what is now downtown Ocean City, to create a town. Most were local families with names that today are well recognized as well. They needed a way to bring guests to Ocean City so they approached Lemuel Showell, who loved the barrier island and already had a home there. The only way to get to the island back then was to sail across the bay. He agreed to be an investor in the Atlantic Hotel Company and extended the railroad, out of his own pocket, creating the first bridge to the island.

Ocean City was not the immediate success of its northern counterpart but, it was popular. People came down to walk the boardwalk to enjoy the fresh salt air. Few people sun bathed on the beach or played in the ocean. However, the ladies of the town made the trips to Ocean City memorable with the delicious food they prepared from wildfowl and the sea that the men brought home. It was an elegant time in our town’s history, as people dressed beautifully to dine and walk about.

John Dale Showell, III was born in 1923 and spent his time growing up between Ocean City and Washington DC. Though educated in Washington he spent his summers in Ocean City at the family home on North Division Street. He worked in the family business which included the first swimming pool, a theater, restaurant, bowling alley and bath house. He was one of the first surfers and life guards of Ocean City. He was a very accomplished and powerful swimmer who stood 6″6″ tall. Though he lettered in nine sports and was drafted by both the Washington Senators and Redskins to play professional sports, he enlisted into the Marine Corps at age 18. Most likely, because of his intimidating size and leadership ability, he was made an instructor on Parris Island. Later he joined the War Dogs, a special section of the Marine Corps, and was sent to the Pacific. John Dale landed on Iwo Jima with the Marines as a platoon leader with his trained Doberman Pincher. After the battle he received a field promotion for his efforts and was sent back to the States for reassignment. While there, the war drew to an end and he was given the choice to stay in the Marine Corps or become a civilian. He chose to return to school on an athletic scholarship to play football for Duke University.

While starting at Duke, he met Ann Showell, a beautiful, young southern girl from Wadesboro, North Carolina at a donut shop called the Toddle In and Waddle Out Shop. If you ever met Mr. Showell you would know he loved food, especially desserts! He had a tough choice. Would he go for the donuts or the girl? He did both and offered Ann and a friend a ride to their dorm in his convertible. Ann was pinned to a lieutenant in the Navy but, after meeting “Johnny” she broke it off. After Duke they were married and moved to Ocean City. They lived at first with John Dale Showell, Jr and Sarah Hickling Showell in the family home before purchasing what had been a summer home and hunting lodge in West Ocean City, where Mrs. Showell lived until she passed away in 2010. They both worked very hard and the season was short. John worked for the Bank of Ocean City and Ann worked at the “Showell Block” for the family business. Later, they ran a rooming house and apartments, called The Washington Cottages, on 4th Street. Here they spent the summers there while raising the first of four children, John Dale Showell, IV and Ann Showell.

In 1958 John and Ann purchased a parcel of land on 37th Street that would become The Castle in the Sand Motel. It opened in 1960 and was considered to be “way up the beach”. It was a new concept for it provided kitchens in the rooms and balconies to sit out on and view the ocean. It was a wonderful time in Ocean City. Though there were few restaurants and clubs, they got together with their friends in a social club known to this day as The Dunes Club, to party and dance the night away. Later two more children were born, Sarah Elizabeth and Adam Lockhart. The four children grew up between the small family farm on the water in West Ocean City and the beach in front of The Castle. They each worked for the hotel as it grew to what is now 180 units plus the Barefoot Mailman Motel’s 32 units.

In 1992, after Mr. Showell passed away and through an extraordinary gift to the children by Ann Showell, young Ann and Adam purchased the interest in The Castle in the Sand Inc.  There are five grandchildren-Carly Ann, Elizabeth, Adam Jr, Sarah Ann, and Hannah, who have all worked in the hotel and have a deep affection for it like their senior family members do.  Today The Castle in the Sand Hotel is now owned and operated by Adam Lockhart Showell, Sr., and managed with the help of newlyweds Adam Lockhart Showell, Jr. and his wife Ana Leticia Showell.

Though Ocean City has grown and changed many times, the family loves it just as much and enjoy their lives at The Castle in the Sand Hotel, greeting guests and working with the staff. It continues to be a great life that “Johnny and Ann” started for them back in 1958. For those who visit Ocean City and The Castle in the Sand Hotel, you will find a wonderful part of history and enjoyment between 37th and 38th Streets on the ocean.

We hope you will come and be our guests.