Seen as a broken-down and forgotten waterfront home, 40-year construction pro David Bradley instead saw a unique opportunity to pay homage to the land of his childhood
Homebuilder David Bradley purchased and renovated a ramshackle waterfront beach home into a million-dollar showpiece that evokes one of Ocean City’s most iconic buildings — and now, it could be yours.
There used to be a brick rancher at 165 Old Wharf Road. Thanks to a spark of inspiration, Bradley transformed the structure into a miniature version of Ocean City’s famous Life-Saving Station Museum. He’s now selling the 2,425 sq. ft., five-bed, five-bath home for $1.29 million.
Bradley is a native Washingtonian who’s had his own construction company for 40 years. He also grew up coming to Ocean City every summer, and for him, the resort still holds a special place in his heart. For that reason, he decided to pay homage to that late-1800s coastal style, as seen in the Life-Saving Station Museum and in other century-old resort homes.
“People back in the day who did those designs,” he said, “they’re just spectacular, and there’s hardly anything left in Ocean City that speaks to that history. I’m so thankful they had it together enough to preserve that building. I wanted a piece of Ocean City to be preserved. I think it’s a classic design — classic Ocean City.”
Picking up design cues like board-and-batten exteriors, gables and dormers, Bradley soon took an idea from the planning stage into reality. The audacious project occurred over three phases and, remarkably, took him just 11 months to complete.
At first, all Bradley wanted was a basic refurbishment: Demo the kitchen; lose the drop ceiling; drywall the paneling. But once he pulled up the flooring, he saw signs the project would have to become a total gut job. “I underestimated the amount of work it was going to take,” he said. “It was a lot of sweat equity.”
Phase One included significant investment into the property’s waterfront. He had 170 feet of bulk-head rebuilt and added a dock, which included two full-size boat slips and room for two WaveRunners. The T-shaped dock extends out from the sea wall 20 feet, extends 50 feet wide.
In Phase Two, after the house was gutted and the brick was stripped, he added the second story to what was then a three-bedroom home. At the same time, in mid-summer 2017, he wanted to still get use from his beach house.
“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t fancy, but we had the furniture in here. I had plywood countertops. We had painted floors, and we got through the season. We literally didn’t have any siding. Neighbors couldn’t figure out what I was doing,” he said.
Phase Two also saw the addition of a cupola, just like the Life-Saving Station Museum. Assembled in the driveway, the cupola weighed in at 5.5 tons, so it had to be lifted by crane onto the home.
Once that was in place, Bradley and his team had to demolish the old roof beneath it and finish building a new one, all the while suffering through the bitter, blustery winter of 2017-18.
Phase Three involved adding two more bedrooms to the upstairs. The master suite includes a balcony that overlooks the lagoon, and a well-appointed master bath with a flush-curb shower. The other room is an in-law suite that comes with its own full bathroom, kitchenette, washer/dryer hookup and a separate spiral-staircase entrance.
What’s also noteworthy is that the property sits on the end of the street in the Caine Keys neighborhood, sitting caddy-corner across a 125-foot-wide lagoon and a canal. Lots like this just don’t come available in Ocean City. As far as the renovations, his real estate agent, Nancy Reither, told him: “You’re the only person I know who can knock the ugly off it,” Bradley recalls.
The exterior of the home is, as Bradley describes it, “maintenance-free.” It may look like wood, but it’s all plastics and composites, from the faux-shake-shingle siding to the cross-T braces on the dormer windows to the garage doors. Even the two-car garage is a fake-out; it’s really only a one car-garage with some room for bicycles.
When it came to making the inside of the house beautiful, he put that in the hands of some very competent area professionals. Local artist Lola Panco painted a blue-sky mural on the ceiling of the cupola and stenciled a compass rose on the main living-room ceiling. Christina Lawson, owner of Ish Boutique, did all their interior decorating.
Bradley also picked out a few pieces of authentic maritime décor, like an antique rope ladder and an aluminum ship’s light. One focal point on the first floor is a life-size wooden carving of a tuna, strung by its tail and hanging from the ceiling by ship’s rope.
The overall budget fell into the $1 million range, with renovations and construction totaling about $600,000 and the land purchase coming in at $345,000. For more information or to see the home, contact Nancy Reither with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Ocean City.
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